The cafeteria at the Cunningham Elementary is filled with hungry kids as Bob Sanborn of Children at Risk says this doesn’t happen at enough schools in the area. He said the federal government funds free school lunch and breakfast program for schools that have enough eligible students, but only two area school districts are taking advantage of it.
“Here we have 26 school districts. Only two here in Houston are taking advantage of it — HISD and North Forest. We have an additional seven, five that are over 70-percent, two that are 69-percent that could be taking advantage of them, but that aren’t.”
Sanborn says 75-percent of the students in Harris County who could be getting a free breakfast at school are not getting one. He says school is better for students who’ve had breakfast.
“We know that kids who have this breakfast are going to do better in school, attendance is better, visits to the school nurses office are fewer.”
And he says studies show kids who eat breakfast are less likely to become overweight.
HISD has had a free breakfast program for about two and a half years. Brian Giles heads HISD’s Food Services and says because of federal reimbursement, the cost of the program hasn’t been a factor.
“Fortunately with the breakfast program, even at a no-cost breakfast, it is at or above a break-even level. That may be a concern to other districts implementing this, it has been cost effective.”
And with new federal rules this year a school district can offer universal lunch and breakfast at individual qualifying campuses.
The bottom-line though, says Bob Sanborn is that for thousands of kids in Harris County if they aren’t eating at school they are hungry.