Gov. Brian Sandoval and First Lady Kathleen said Wednesday Carson City’s Empire Elementary is an example of the progress students can make by expanding the school breakfast program into the classroom.
They joined Agriculture Director Jim Barbee and Superintendent of Education Dale Erquiaga in urging other schools around the state to join the School Breakfast Challenge.
The First Lady said the lack of a good breakfast to start the day is one of the biggest reasons why elementary students act out in class and providing students with food in the morning would help them pay attention in class and learn more.
The governor said the program is substantially the same as the one proposed in AB137 of the 2011 Legislature but which he vetoed.
“At the time, the school districts didn’t want it,” he said.
The problem was teachers and school principals thought serving food in the classroom would be disruptive. He said Empire’s teachers were also leery but now they are convinced the program works.
The result: participation in the breakfast program has risen from 24 percent to 81 percent at Empire Elementary.
He and the First Lady held a press conference at Empire Wednesday to urge other schools to join in the program and begin offering breakfast in the classroom. He said the program has the potential to “increase almost exponentially the number of kids you can teach.”
A large percentage of the cost of the program is covered by the federal government. His budget includes funding to help leverage that federal match.
According to literature distributed by the Food Security Council, the advocates for the program, if every student who qualifies for free and reduced meal benefits participated in the breakfasts, an additional $47.2 million would be available to cover the costs.
To help encourage other schools, Barbee said Walmart has donated $5,000 as reward money for the three schools that make the most dramatic improvement in participation.