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Legislative Assembly

Washington’s Parents Prioritize School Breakfast as Key to Learning

A few weekends back, I had the opportunity to combine my roles as Chief Operating Officer at WithinReach, elementary school mom and PTA member. I represented my local chapter of the PTA at the statewide PTA Legislative Assembly, while using my parent voice to speak up for Washington’s hungriest kids, not just my kids, but ALL kids.
The PTA Legislative Assembly is a critical gathering of parents from across the state. There are 138,000 members of Washington’s PTA’s, making us the largest advocacy organization in the state. At our meetings, the pros and cons of many issues are debated by parents interested in improving education outcomes and closing the opportunity gap for all children. Many issues are presented and voted on and the top 5 become the legislative agenda.
This year there was an intense and necessary focus on funding basic education, as it is required under McCleary v. the State of WA. Education is dramatically under-funded in Washington, and the legislature is currently being held in Contempt of Court for their lack of progress in the direction of fully funding education by 2018.
We all recognized the importance of parents advocating to fully fund basic education. However, we also have an enormous problem with hunger in our state. One in 5 children in Washington lives in a food insecure household. For thousands of kids in WA, their free school lunch may be the only meal they eat each day. WithinReach is driven to improve health for children, and we see ending hunger as key to improving health.
The WSPTA’s vision is to advocate for the whole child, and all children. I was confident (and hopeful) they would vote to bring the powerful voice of the PTA to Olympia this legislative session in support of Breakfast After the Bell. And they did, and here’s why WSPTA voted to support Breakfast After the Bell:
  • No child should be too hungry to learn. In a national survey, 87 percent of principals reported seeing hungry children in their schools at least once a week, and 73 percent of teachers reported having students who regularly come to school hungry because there isn’t enough to eat at home.
  • Hungry children can negatively impact an entire classroom, not to mention their own education. Hunger in children increases behavioral and health problems. It can also decrease a child’s self-esteem. When a child is hungry, his/her ability to concentrate and learn is jeopardized by the emptiness/pain of their stomach. He or she may act out because of their hunger, producing a disruptive environment for the teacher to handle; in turn, pulling the focus of other students away from the lessons being taught.
  • Washington is one of the worst states in the nation when it comes to feeding hungry kids breakfast. We rank 41st out the 50 states in serving eligible, low-income children school breakfast.
  • Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Every parent has probably used that phrase at least once, if not many times.
  • There is a solution! The USDA, the Food Research and Action Council, and other national experts are advocating for serving breakfast after the school day starts. It is a national best practice to increase participation and improve numerous learning and behavior outcomes.

This information made sense to PTA members from across the state and they voted to add it to their legislative agenda. Breakfast is a simple, cost-effective way for schools to help every child be well-nourished and ready to learn. To join the Breakfast After the Bell Coalition and advocate alongside WithinReach, United Way of King County, Children’s Alliance, WSPTA, and many others, contact our Senior Policy Manger: Carrie Glover.

 

Tags: Breakfast After the Bell   Education   Food Insecure   hunger   Legislative Assembly   Washington State PTA   

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