Have a Heart for Kids Day rally, 2015

Putting a healthy breakfast within kids’ reach

Adam 04/03/14

Students eating breakfast in the classroom
Eight school districts across Washington state have earned honors for serving more students the first meal of the day: breakfast.

We at the Children’s Alliance partnered with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn and the Washington State Dairy Council to recognize the school districts with gold, silver and bronze awards and cash prizes of $500-$1,500.

The eight recognized districts stretch from the town of Newport, in the northeast corner of the state, to Satsop, just 40 miles from the Pacific Ocean. In the 2012-2013 school year, each district served school breakfasts to 29 to 43 percent more students than in 2011-2012.

Our state’s Constitution says our children’s education is our paramount duty. But hunger stands in the way. One in four children is growing up in homes where there isn’t enough food. On a national level, Latino and African American households are 60-70 percent more likely to experience hunger than the national average, according to the Children’s Alliance 2013 report, Hungry in Washington.

And while most low-income students are served lunch, only 43 percent of those who get lunch are also served breakfast.

School breakfast varies across the state. Newport School District students receive free breakfasts, and in the elementary school, breakfast is provided in the classroom after the school bell rings. Serving breakfast after the bell increases participation because it reduces barriers like late buses or crowded lunchrooms. Teachers like it because more kids start the day with good nutrition, ready to learn.

During the 2014 state legislative session, Rep. Zack Hudgins (D-Seattle) and Sen. Steve Litzow (R-Mercer Island) sponsored the Breakfast After the Bell Act, to spur more kids to get a great start to the school day. The bill did not become law this year, but we will continue to work with allies and lawmakers to increase school breakfast participation in Washington.

The eight districts recognized are:

  • Newport, about 50 miles north of Spokane;
  • Dixie, 15 miles east of Walla Walla;
  • Pomeroy, 30 miles west of Clarkston;
  • Easton, 40 miles west of Ellensburg;
  • Skamania, in the Columbia Gorge town of Stevenson, 35 miles east of Vancouver;
  • Satsop, 17 miles east of Aberdeen in southwest Washington;
  • Mary M. Knight, in the town of Elma, just east of Satsop;
  • Quilcene, on the east side of the Olympic Peninsula, 25 miles south of Port Townsend.

While geographically diverse, these districts have one thing in common: Educators there know that hunger disrupts learning and stifles academic performance. Congratulations to them all for seeking innovative ways to get our students the morning fuel they need to succeed.