Legislature should support breakfast at schools

Posted: May. 18, 2016 11:55 am
To The Herald-Whig:

I'm writing to share my support of Senate Bill 2393, which will be heard in the Illinois House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee on Wednesday, May 18. It is a bipartisan bill that would provide breakfast in school for 175,000 low-income children who are at risk of going hungry much of the day.

The bill requires some schools to serve breakfast as part of the school day in order to reach more students. In Beardstown, we already participate in the "breakfast after the bell" program and have seen its benefits. Each day, on average we have 526 students walk into our middle school/high school and within a matter of minutes they are provided a bagged breakfast including a serving of fruit, a pint of milk and two servings of grain or protein. Because we serve breakfast, we're able to begin class on time rather than having to take 20 to 30 minutes calming students each day. By serving breakfast, we're getting additional quality time to teach our students.

For our students, I know that the meals they get at school are their two best meals of the day, if not their only meals of the day. Too many students have to deal with hunger along with their studies -- 77 percent of our students are low-income. One thing is clear: Our children can't learn on an empty stomach. Making sure our students get a nutritious breakfast is the first step toward ensuring success in school.

Since implementing a breakfast after the bell program, we've seen the behavioral and financial benefits firsthand. We've seen fewer discipline problems and improved academic performance. We also have seen a decrease in our absences and tardiness, which increases our attendance and results in additional funds for our school. Financially, the breakfast program more than pays for itself.

As a principal, I believe that local schools should have control over their decision making. To that end, Illinois No Kid Hungry worked with the Illinois School Management Alliance during the past several weeks to ensure that an amendment was added to this bill that allows local school boards to opt out of the breakfast after the bell program if it results in financial hardship. But children around Illinois can't afford to wait another year. I urge the House Education Committee to support SB2393.

Scott Riddle

Principal ?Beardstown Middle School/High School