Bill would support school breakfast programs

Photo courtesy of Morning AG clips

Every school day, tens of thousands of students in Florida receive a nutritious breakfast as part of the School Breakfast Program, which provides basic support for families in need.

Florida Senate Bill 1656, filed by Senator Ana Maria Rodriguez (R-Miami),

would require the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to reimburse sponsors for school breakfast meals that meet certain requirements.

“This legislation is critical in responding to federal waivers that are set to expire this year,” Rodriguez told the Tallahassee Democrat.

Her bill “will ensure that federal child nutrition programs continue to operate by providing healthy meals and snacks for vulnerable children. More children will have meals available to them, at no cost to families,” according to the bill’s text.

“I am very thankful for the school breakfast program,” said Jailyn Nickeo, a freshman at Leon High School. “Breakfast starts my day off and I am very grateful that if I miss breakfast at home or forget to bring a morning snack that I can get some breakfast from school.”

For some families, there are obstacles to providing a healthy morning meal each day.  Strict financial budgets for low-income families and busy morning schedules can mean that many students arrive at school hungry and not ready to learn. Also, even if parents manage to make breakfast, you can’t always be certain the child will eat it.

Eating is also known as a social activity, and children can eat smarter, and better, when consuming food with  their peers and friends at school because kids will see one child doing something and want to follow. Fortunately, the School Breakfast Program plays a critical role in filling this void for millions of students each day.

“Research supports what educators and school officials see every day in our nation’s schools: a well-nourished child who starts the day with breakfast is more likely to be at school, a better learner, and willing to participate in the classroom,” according to the Food Research & Action Center.

Some breakfast programs have access to an assortment of food sources, including fresh produce, cereal, milk, biscuits, yogurt and more.

Any public school, nonprofit private school, or residential child-care institution can participate in the School Breakfast Program and receive federal funds for each breakfast served. The program is administered at the federal level by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and in each state typically through the department of education or agriculture, according to the Food Research & Action Center.

SB 166 is waiting to be heard by the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Environment and Government. It passed with a unanimous vote in the Agriculture Committee on Jan. 19.