Texas considers free school breakfast for all to remove stigma

April 27, 2013 at 12:09 AM
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AUSTIN, Texas, April 26 (UPI) -- Texas lawmakers are considering a bill to provide free or low-price meals to all students in schools where 80 percent or more qualify for the program.

Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. said his bill -- which passed the Senate and is being considered in the House -- offers free breakfasts to all interested students in low-income areas, not just to those who qualify under federal guidelines. Lucio said the bill is intended to remove the stigma of government assistance.

Studies show students who eat breakfast do better in school. However, in the state of Texas, participation in the School Breakfast Program is less than 60 percent of that of the National School Lunch Program -- and childhood nutrition advocates say the stigma of receiving free breakfasts when other students eat at home keeps many eligible students from participating, texastribune.org reported and reprinted in The New York Times.

Under the School Breakfast Program, which began in 1966, children whose household income was below 185 percent of the federal poverty line were eligible for a low-cost school breakfast. Those below 130 percent receive free breakfasts.

Currently, 185 percent of the poverty level is $42,643 for a family of four; 130 percent of the poverty level is $29,965 for a family of four.

Federal subsidies for the program are tied to participation, therefore the schools do not save money by serving fewer meals, Anne Olson of the Christian Life Commission, an advocacy organization affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas, told texastribune.org.

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