As we prepare for the new school year, we are reminded of the profound effect proper nutrition can have on a child's success. We know healthy food is vital to children's physical and mental development, and kids who face hunger often suffer serious consequences – more school days missed, lower grades and test scores, more discipline issues – that impact their future earning potential and ability to participate fully in society.
With this in mind, the Capital Area Food Bank is making child nutrition a priority, advocating for healthy school meals and the funding to support them. In the past year, we worked with hunger advocates across Texas and the U.S. to pass two provisions that will ensure access to school meals for more of the children we serve, starting in the 2014-2015 school year.
A new state law will ensure more Texas children start each day with a healthy breakfast. Under the new law, any school where 80 percent or more students qualify for free or reduced-price meals must serve free school breakfasts to all students.
At the federal level, the Community Eligibility Provision will allow schools in high-need areas to provide free meals to all students under the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs. Families don’t have to fill out lengthy applications for free or reduced-price meals, and schools save time and money with less administrative work.
In both cases, it's up to individual school districts to decide whether they will take advantage of these provisions. Although the deadline has passed to enroll this year, we continue to work with partner organizations to educate school district staff, parents and community members and encourage all eligible districts to participate.
Some school districts like Round Rock ISD are taking matters into their own hands and making the financial investment on their own. At-risk students at RRISD schools who qualify for reduced -priced lunch can now receive their meals for free.
When more children eat well, everyone benefits. This is an investment worth making.