Summer Gathercole is the Colorado state director of Share Our Strength.
No child should go hungry. Yet, more than one in four Colorado kids struggle with hunger. In fact, more than 270,000 of them start their school day with an empty belly. And learning suffers.
Teachers see the effects of hunger in their classrooms every day and they tell us that hungry kids struggle to focus and often fall behind in school. A recent survey by Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry campaign showed that three in five teachers regularly see kids come to the classroom hungry.
Colorado State legislators Rep. Tony Exum, D-Colorado Springs, and Rep. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City, recently introduced legislation to rectify this situation. House Bill 1006, the Breakfast After the Bell School Nutrition Program, would require Colorado schools to serve a nutritious breakfast to all students for free, after-the-bell, if 70 percent of the school's students qualify for free or reduced-priced lunch the first year.
Many schools across the state already serve breakfast — although not all students who are eligible eat breakfast. In some schools, cost can be a barrier for low-income families. In some cases, the meal is served before school starts, so students who rely on the school bus for transportation arrive too late to eat.
With Breakfast After the Bell, Exum and Moreno designed a program that knocked down those barriers to good nutrition and still preserved flexibility. Each school can serve breakfast in a way that makes sense for students, teachers and staff.
Schools can serve breakfast in the classroom, with staff delivering food after school begins, or they can set up carts with grab-and-go meals for students to take with them into their first class. Others may establish an extended passing period so students can eat in-between classes.
Breakfast After the Bell would enable 81,000 more Colorado kids to eat a nutritious breakfast. And research shows that this means 81,000 more Colorado kids will have the chance to excel in school and in life.
Share Our Strength recently collaborated with Deloitte on a study exploring the correlation between school breakfast and achievement. The results are remarkable.
For example: If 70 percent of Colorado elementary and middle school students eating a free or reduced-price lunch were also eating school breakfast, the potential outcome could be 60,438 fewer school absences per year 40,292 students scoring higher on standardize math tests per year; and 10,073 more high school graduates.
Healthier kids who do better in school are more likely to graduate. That means a stronger workforce and a more competitive Colorado economy. Breakfast After the Bell will help thousands of Colorado kids get started on that path.