Herseth Sandlin proposes expansion of school breakfastsU.S. Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, D-S.D., introduced legislation this week that she hopes will grow the number of school breakfasts served across the country.
With her “Healthy Start Act,” Herseth Sandlin is proposing to make low-cost commodity foods from the U.S. Department of Agriculture available for the first time to the School Breakfast Program.
By: Seth Tupper, The Daily Republic
U.S. Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, D-S.D., introduced legislation this week that she hopes will grow the number of school breakfasts served across the country.
With her “Healthy Start Act,” Herseth Sandlin is proposing to make low-cost commodity foods from the U.S. Department of Agriculture available for the first time to the School Breakfast Program. Commodities are already a “critical component” of the School Lunch Program, she said Thursday. If expanded to the breakfast program, she thinks commodities would “help schools who wish to grow or begin a school breakfast program, as well as provide additional healthy food options for children currently in the program.”
Herseth Sandlin said only 2 billion school breakfasts are served annually in the United States, compared to 6 billion school lunches. As a result, she said, some children are missing a nutritious start to their day that could help prevent obesity and sharpen their early-morning focus on academics.
“It’s unacceptable to allow children to go hungry when we have the resources to provide them with a healthy breakfast option when they arrive at school,” Herseth Sandlin said during a regularly scheduled conference call with reporters.
Though hunger is often thought of as an urban issue, Herseth Sandlin said, it’s also an issue in rural areas. She called access to school lunch in rural areas “a challenge” and said rural children — including some in South Dakota — face long bus rides every morning and often show up for school on an empty stomach.
There are 183 school breakfast programs in South Dakota, compared to 224 school lunch programs. The breakfasts are served at 745 attendance centers, including public schools, private schools, Bureau of Indian Education schools and residential-care programs. The average daily number of breakfasts served in the state during 2008-09 was 22,931.
In addition to helping students, Herseth Sandlin said her legislation could help the agricultural economy.
“Farmers across the country play a critical role in providing healthy foods for a variety of nutrition programs,” she said, “and we must continue to utilize the bounty of our farm and ranches to benefit children in schools across the United States.”
Herseth Sandlin noted that National School Breakfast Week will begin March 8. With the awareness generated by that observance and her legislation, plus a renewed focus on child nutrition by the Department of Agriculture and ongoing work to combat childhood obesity by First Lady Michelle Obama, Herseth Sandlin said she is optimistic about expanding the School Breakfast Program this year.
“There is no doubt that a nutritious breakfast is a key ingredient to a productive day, whether you’re an adult in the working world or a child preparing for the fun and challenges of school,” Herseth Sandlin said. “In fact, research shows that children who eat a good breakfast have better nutrition and are more likely to succeed in school, which can lead to fewer behavioral problems, better attendance and lower dropout rates.”
Herseth Sandlin’s legislation has four co-sponsors and has been assigned to the House Committee on Education and Labor, where it awaits action.