One key to a healthy, prosperous future for Minnesota is giving more kids access to breakfast at school

By Sue Estee, Executive Director Second Harvest North Central Food Bank

One key to a healthy, prosperous future for Minnesota is giving more kids access to breakfast at school.  It’s proven that amazing things happen when kids eat breakfast every day – especially at school. Research shows that when kids consistently eat a healthy breakfast their test scores, attendance and graduation rates improve. Teachers and principals also report that classrooms are more calm and focused.

The traditional school breakfast program, which serves breakfast before the start of the school day, is a good first step toward addressing hunger and supporting student achievement. But participation is limited and so is the impact. In Minnesota, nearly half of children eligible for free or reduced-price school meals aren’t getting breakfasts at school. Many students simply do not arrive in time to get to the cafeteria before classes begin.

Increasing the availability of free school breakfast for Minnesota’s learners is an important, common-sense way to create a healthier future for the next generation.

Breakfast After the Bell — a model by which breakfast is offered after the official start of the school day — is proven to be one of the best ways to overcome barriers to school breakfast participation. That’s why Second Harvest Food Banks, Hunger Solutions and Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota — alongside leaders in health care, agriculture, education, manufacturing, social service and other sectors — worked with lawmakers to introduce House File 1037 (Rep. Heather Edelson) and Senate File 1427 (Sen. Paul Anderson) to the Minnesota Legislature in February.

Breakfast after the Bell legislation will increase access to a nutritious school breakfast for all of Minnesota’s learners. It will provide support to schools, like meal reimbursements, to either establish or expand school breakfast programs.

In many districts, educators see the positive impacts of breakfast at school every day and work hard to remove barriers to students eating breakfast. Students are hungry for many reasons – their families have limited resources, they are living on their own, their buses arrive just before the beginning of the school day. Parents and faculty alike recognize the important benefits of removing barriers to school breakfast participation. Healthy school breakfasts set the tone for a good day.

This legislation will be a game-changer for the thousands of students who would benefit from healthy school breakfasts. That is why school leaders, parents, teachers, anti-hunger advocates and community leaders are urging our legislators to include funding for this bill in their budget proposal to Gov. Tim Walz.