New Legislation Could Ensure Kentucky Kids Have Time for Breakfast at School

"Allowing students to fill their bellies during the first class of the day will help more children stay on track," an expert says.

click to enlarge Having food helps students stay on track throughout the day, experts say. - PHOTO: CDC, UNSPLASH
photo: CDC, Unsplash
Having food helps students stay on track throughout the day, experts say.

Senate lawmakers are considering updating existing legislation to allow kids to eat breakfast at school 15 minutes after the bell.

During National School Breakfast Week, advocates are applauding the proposed change, arguing chronically late buses and other factors are preventing kids from being able to eat breakfast before school starts.

Dalla Emerson, director of food-services operations for Bowling Green Independent Schools and public policy and legislative chair for the Kentucky School Nutrition Association, said allowing students to fill their bellies during the first class of the day will help more children stay on track.

"While teachers are doing attendance and students are listening to announcements, and they're getting ready for a full day of learning, students can be eating in the classroom so that the information they're getting ready to receive is retained," Emerson explained.

According to Feeding Kentucky, six in 10 Kentucky children who qualify for free and reduced-price meals are eating breakfast and more than 270,000 kids are missing the most important meal of the day. Research shows habitual breakfast consumption has a positive effect on children's academic performance. 

Kate McDonald, No Kid Hungry campaign director for Feeding Kentucky, added the current law regarding breakfast at school lacks clarity, as schools must ensure children are reaching a certain number of instructional hours each day.

"These are meals that should be accessible to kids, but because of some uncertainty in regulations, Kentucky schools are unable to serve them the meals," McDonald asserted. "This small change would really make a significant difference for many districts that are unable to feed kids during the school day."

McKenzie Suitor, director of child nutrition for Marshall County Public Schools, said increasing school districts' flexibility will help them decide what best fits their students' needs.

"And those are some things we are working through, trying to cut back on all of these restrictions," Suitor emphasized. "Ultimately our goal is to feed students a healthy, nutritious meal."

In a report released earlier this year, researchers at the Food Research and Action Center called for more schools nationwide to consider serving breakfast and lunch in ways to address issues of timing, convenience and stigma.

This story was originally published by Public News Service and is republished here with permission.

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