Texas children are not hungry due to a lack of food and nutrition programs. They are at risk of hunger—meaning they do not know where their next meal will come from—because they face poverty and, importantly, do not participate in available school nutrition programs. More than one in four Texas children are at risk of hunger—the fifth highest percentage in the country. However, unlike other challenges associated with poverty, we can solve child hunger and the necessary funding already exists to do so; we just need to use it.
The economic impact of federal funds earmarked for school meals and left on the table is staggering. In 2010 alone, Texas could have brought an additional $23 million to the state by increasing the number of students participating in the School Breakfast Program by seven percent.
The Texas Hunger Initiative—a project of the Baylor University School of Social Work—recently partnered with national nonprofit Share Our Strength to launch the Texas No Kid Hungry Campaign last week. The goal of this campaign is to combat child hunger in Texas, and make use of available public and private nutrition funds that currently go to waste. The Texas Hunger Initiative and Share Our Strength are working to end child hunger in Texas.
Specifically, the goals of the Texas No Kid Hungry Campaign are to give more children a healthy start to the day by increasing the number of kids participating in the School Breakfast Program, keep kids nourished outside of school hours by increasing the availability and awareness of Summer Nutrition Programs and after-school programs, and ensure kids have food at home by helping eligible families enroll in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps.
Successfully increasing participation in the School Breakfast Program alone will significantly impact the health and well-being of Texas children. Across the state, nearly 2.5 million students eat a free or reduced-price lunch, yet less than 60 percent of these eligible students participate in the School Breakfast Program.
Countless studies have shown that students who eat a healthy breakfast perform better on standardized tests, display greater cognitive ability, are more attentive in class, and show a general increase in math and reading scores. Providing breakfast to our neediest students will ultimately allow them to succeed in and out of the classroom.
Please help us spread the word about the Texas No Kid Hungry Campaign, and if you know a child who is at risk of hunger, encourage his or her family to take advantage of available food and nutrition programs in school and in your community.
Working together, we can help to end child hunger one school breakfast at a time.
Bill Shore is the Chairman and CEO of Share Our Strength.
Jeremy K. Everett M. Div. is the Director of The Texas Hunger Initiative, a project of the Baylor University School of Social Work.