Since it can be hard to concentrate on an empty stomach, CMS schools offer breakfast to low-income students. But district officials worry these kids are skipping breakfast to avoid being labeled “poor.” To solve that, CMS wants to provide breakfast to all kids. The school board voted last night to approve the proposal.
Only a third of CMS students who qualify for free or discounted meals, eat breakfast at school. The district’s child nutrition director Cindy Hobbs wanted to find out why kids are staying away, so she asked a bunch of them. They told her only poor children eat breakfast.
That’s how it does work. Go to a school cafeteria at lunch time and everyone is eating lunch. But breakfast is a different matter. CMS only offers breakfast to kids from low-income families and so taking a sausage biscuit immediately outs you. So Hobbs has proposed offering free breakfast to all kids, not just low-income students.
“We want to make sure that those children have the opportunity to eat breakfast and they don’t see it as a social stigma,” says Hobbs.
So CMS tried it out in four schools and saw some increase in the number of low-income students eating free breakfast.
More schools across the country are doing this. The School Nutrition Association estimates more than 15 percent of districts offer what’s called universal breakfast in one or more of their schools.
The non-profit Share Our Strength/No Hungry Child based in Washington DC is pushing the idea. The group’s study on schools in Maryland shows ties between universal breakfast and better attendance, higher test scores and graduation rates.
Hobbs says expanding the breakfast program won’t cost the district more. CMS already comes in under the amount it receives from the state and federal government for providing meals. Instead of setting those savings aside, she says the district will use that money to buy breakfast for everyone.