One in four children in Texas struggles with hunger. Study after study have proven the obvious – children who go hungry have lower academic performance and higher rates of health or mental health challenges.
Students who eat breakfast score better on standardized tests, are less likely to be absent or tardy and have better memory recall outcomes. Unfortunately, some students who qualified for a free meal in the past didn’t participate to avoid the social stigma of getting a free or reduced meal. The “Universal Breakfast Bill” proposed in the legislature ensured all children in schools with high rates of poverty would be able to access free breakfast without being singled out by their peers.
In 2013, the Texas Legislature debated a program allowing the poorest public schools to offer free breakfast to all students through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s School Breakfast Program. By offering free breakfast to all students in high-need schools, students would be more likely to eat breakfast resulting in better health and educational outcomes for young Texans.
Even though this program would not be a drain on state funds because it taps federal funding, there were still some Texas legislators who opposed feeding hungry Texas children. 63 state representatives and four state senators voted against SB 376, the “Universal Breakfast Bill,” including State Senator Joan Huffman (R – Houston) and State Reps. Tony Dale (R – Cedar Park), Gary Elkins (R – Houston), Craig Goldman (R – Fort Worth), John Raney (R – College Station), Ron Simmons (R – Carrollton), Jonathan Stickland (R – Bedford) and Paul Workman (R – Austin).
Texas school children are our state’s most valuable resource. Every effort should be made to ensure they can reach their educational potential. We need our state elected officials to fight for them and to invest in a better future. While SB 376 was a step in the right direction, there’s still work to be done to eliminate hunger in Texas.
To learn more about child hunger in Texas, visit: