By Jeff Valin
A school breakfast campaign geared to ensure children start their day with a full stomach is also improving student achievement.
"Only 45 percent of the kids who qualify for free or reduced lunch and get it in our state, are getting the breakfast," said Governor Dannel Malloy.
Unacceptable, Malloy says, as Connecticut ranks last in the nation, eight years running now, for National School Lunch Programs that offer breakfast as well. The Governor spoke Friday morning at the state's second annual "School Breakfast Summit".
"That's where we began, and I'm getting us out of that position," Malloy said.
"We have obesity in our country and in our state, and hunger too, at the same time, so these programs really tackle two of those issues at the same time," said Dawn Crayco, End Hunger Connecticut.
And, it's not just health issues; those on hand cite breakfast-born benefits including better grades, attendance, and graduation rates. Four years into its school breakfast program, Bridgeport hasn't forgotten the morning ritualistic chaos before beginning with breakfast.
"And then it was kind of like a little social minute where they just sat down, 'Did you do your homework last night,' 'Did you watch this program,' so it started the day with a very calm atmosphere," said Maura O'Malley, Bridgeport Public Schools.
The Governor says that school breakfasts are every bit an integral part of his overall education reform package.
"I've asked the Commissioner of Education to require each school district, and each school, quite frankly, that's not offering breakfast, that's offering lunch, to give us the justification for that," Malloy said.
For those worried about the bottom line, presenters say, just as it is with breakfast, those districts should put money where their mouth is.
"We're leaving $22 million on the table in Washington, that would pay for this program," Malloy said. "It doesn't cost us money."
A recipe for success these folks hope every Connecticut district, as Simsbury has just begun doing, will eventually bite in to.
"It's been shown that one of the students is performing so much better, just because of the breakfast program, and they can link it directly," said Dana Tice, Simsbury Public Schools.