Feeding Nebraska’s Kids: Starting Local School Breakfast Programs

If you’re not aware of how many of Nebraska’s children go hungry every day, then these statistics should serve as your wake-up call. According to the Food Bank for the Heartland, about 20 percent of Nebraska’s children are at risk for going hungry. However, Nebraska makes insufficient use of the federal School Breakfast program. In fact, the state ranks 49th in the country for School Breakfast program usage.

Human services organizations have a responsibility to help children who are hungry whenever possible. If you’re considering a career change to get involved in social work, then enroll in a degree program for human services management. For example, in addition to overseeing individual cases, you could create programs to educate district administrators, parents and local lawmakers about the benefits of School Breakfast and cost-effective ways to implement the program.

feeding nebraska's kids

The Nebraska legislature is currently considering a bill (LB 834) that would make it easier for all schools to implement a breakfast program, and the Community Eligibility program is about to become nationally available.

As a human services manager, you could get involved to ensure that Nebraska’s kids get the best possible start every day.

Why Breakfast Matters

According to the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), giving breakfast to schoolchildren has significantbenefits for kids and for their performance in school. Some of them are as follows:

Improved ability to learn

Kids who do not eat breakfast are more likely to be hyperactive, absent and tardy. They’re also more likely to receive both special education services and mental health counseling, and they’re also more likely to repeat a grade than a low-income child that does eat breakfast regularly.

Better learning environment

Serving breakfast at school correlates with fewer disciplinary office referrals. Students also demonstrate reduced levels of anxiety and depression.

Protection against childhood obesity

Kids who eat breakfast have more favorable weight outcomes including lower body mass index and lower probabilities of becoming overweight or obese. They’re also more likely to get adequate amounts of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, phosphorus and calcium from their overall diets.

Reduced food insecurity

Kids who eat a healthy breakfast at school report reduced symptoms of hunger during the school year, although they are still vulnerable in the summer when school is out of session.

Community Eligibility

Starting during the 2014-2015 school year, low-income schools around the nationcan utilize a program called Community Eligibility to offer free breakfasts and lunches to all students in their schools. Participating schoolsmust have a student body in which at least 40 percent of students qualify for free lunches because of:

  • Foster care status.
  • Head Startparticipation.
  • Homelessness.
  • Migrant status.
  • Government benefits.

For example, students who are members of households receiving SNAP benefits, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash assistance or Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservation (FDPIR) benefits would certified for free meals without paperwork completion.

Schools are reimbursed at a rate of 1.6 multiplied by the percentage of identified students. For example, in a school that had 50 percent of students certified for free lunches, 80 percent of meals would be reimbursed at the free rate (50*1.6=80), and the remaining 20 percent of meals served would be reimbursed at the paid rate.

With Community Eligibility, all students receive meals at no charge, and schools enjoy a reduced paperwork burden. Schools couldeven serve breakfast in classrooms without directing children to the cafeteria every morning.

Grab-and-Go Breakfast: LB 834

LB 834, sponsored by Nebraska state senator Bill Avery (D-Lincoln), would appropriate 5 cents per breakfast served to each school that instituted a “grab-and-go” universal breakfast program. Grab-and-go programs are served in the classroom to every student, so low-income students don’t have the stigma of going to the cafeteria for breakfast.

Additionally, the State Department of Education would provide grants for start-up costs including funds for items like garbage cans and lunch carts as well as for marketing items to educate students and parents. Organizations like Nebraska’s Voices for Children have expressed support for LB 834, and human services agencies should also put pressure on lawmakers to vote for the bill.

In so many cases, children don’t receive assistance because people are unaware of available programs. Human services managers can provide a great service to communities by educating staff, parents and school districts about Community Eligibility and LB 834.

Woman and child image by Rosie O’Beirne from Flickr Creative Commons

School cafeteria image by U.S. Department of Agriculture from Flickr Creative Commons

Students eating breakfast image by U.S. Department of Agriculture from Flickr Creative Commons

Photo Credit By: wikipedia.org

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