Kids that go to school hungry don’t perform as well academically, limiting their opportunity to reach their full potential. We know that one in five kids in Washington state live in households that struggle to put food on the table. We also know that the legacy of structural racism in our country means that this reality is even starker for kids of color.
Luckily, for school districts in high-poverty neighborhoods across Washington state, there is a promising solution to address hunger and help reduce the opportunity gap in education: the Community Eligibility provision. School districts have until Monday, Aug. 31 to enroll.
This program would reduce childhood hunger, improve academic performance, ease stress for parents by helping them stretch tight food budgets, and reduce paperwork so that schools can focus more on educating kids.
Now in its second year, community eligibility is available to high-poverty schools around the country, allowing them to offer breakfast and lunch to all students at no cost. Read more about how community eligibility works.
Several school districts in Washington state have already taken advantage of this provision, recognizing the role community eligibility can play in improving outcomes for kids, both in school and at home. But we can do better. Only 122 schools have adopted community eligibility—just 31 percent of the total.
As new data from KIDS COUNT shows, too many kids and families in Washington state still struggle to make ends meet. This lack of economic security manifests itself in all aspects of a child’s life, particularly in school. There are 78,000 more kids living in poverty today than in 2008, before the start of the recession. And economic recovery has been even harder to come by for kids of color, a direct legacy of structural racism in this country.
Research shows that kids with enough to eat do better academically and behaviorally at school. Eating breakfast and lunch helps students start the school day ready to learn and remain focused. Schools that have taken steps to increase school breakfast participation, for example, report that discipline referrals and behavior problems went down and student attentiveness and attendance went up.
That is why it is so important that our local school officials opt in to community eligibility by Monday, August 31, to support education and reduce childhood hunger for Washington’s children.
Cross-posted with the Washington State Budget & Policy Center on Schmudget.