Senator Lucio's Letterhead

PRESS RELEASE FROM SEN. EDDIE LUCIO, JR.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 17, 2013
CONTACT: Daniel Collins, General Counsel & Press Secretary
Phone: 512-463-0127

Lucio Bill to Increase Student Participation in School Breakfast Program Passes Senate Committee

AUSTIN Today, Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr. (D-Brownsville) announces committee passage of a bill intended to increase student participation in the federal government's School Breakfast Program. Passage of Senate Bill 376 by Senator Lucio will ensure that many more Texas students receive a healthy breakfast. The bill creates no new costs to schools, and in fact saves administrators time and resources when offering breakfast. Senate Bill 376 passed unanimously out of the Senate Committee on Education Tuesday and now moves to the full Senate.

"I am so proud to see this bill pass, and I thank the members of the Education Committee for supporting the bill," Senator Lucio said. "We have an obligation to ensure that every Texas child has the resources they need to reach their full potential. Few resources are as important as a nutritious breakfast. It has been shown that providing access to nutritious food increases students' concentration, and reduces students' absences and discipline problems."

Senate Bill 376 would provide that all school districts and open-enrollment charter schools participating in the federal School Breakfast Program makes available a free breakfast to each of their students, if 80 percent or more of those students qualify for free or reduced-price meals.

The School Breakfast Program is a federally-funded program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Program and implemented by participating school districts. All meals must meet federal nutrition standards, which are set to be updated over the next biennium to include appropriate caloric intake for grades K-5, 6-8, and 9-12; gradually reduce students’ sodium intake; and include more fruit.

Children from families with incomes at or below 130 percent of federal poverty level are eligible for free breakfast under the Program. School districts are reimbursed by the USDA for meals provided under the Program. Federal law already provides that schools in “severe need” — that is, school districts in which 40 percent or more of their meals are served for free or at a reduced price — receive additional reimbursements from USDA.

Passage of Senate Bill 376 would cost neither the state nor school districts additional money. In fact, under this bill, because schools are receiving additional funding per meal and are serving more meals, the program becomes more cost effective for schools. Ultimately, the bill makes it easier for schools to administer the School Breakfast Program.

Senate Bill 376 is intended to increase schools’ participation in the School Breakfast Program. As recently as 2009, participation has been half that of its sister program, the National School Lunch Program. Further, many eligible students opt not to take advantage of the Program because of the stigma of receiving a free or reduced-price meal. Offering free breakfast to all students in a school eliminates that stigma.

As passed out of Committee, Senate Bill 376 give schools freedom to experiment with various methods by which they can deliver breakfast. For example, schools can offer breakfast at students' desks prior to the start of school; schools can offer breakfast after the first school bell rings, carving out a time in the morning where teachers can also take attendance and check in with students; or schools can adopt a "grab and go" model, where students who ride a bus may pick up a prepackaged meal as they board, and prepackaged meals may also be made available for students who do not ride the bus.

Passage of this bill would have an enormous impact on the nutrition of Texas public school students. Nearly 3 million students in Texas qualify for free or reduced-price school meals and close to half of these students attend schools where at least 80 percent of their peers also qualify for free or reduced-price school meals.

Senate Bill 376 was one of the first bills Senator Lucio filed this 83rd Legislative Session. The bill was endorsed early in the Session by expert nutrition advocates at a Hunger Roundtable Summit organized by Senator Lucio's office. The bill has also been endorsed in a report published by Center for Public Policy Priorities this Session.

Now passed out of the Senate Committee on Education, the bill moves to the full Senate for consideration.

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