As a father myself, I know I want to do all I can to set my kids up for success each day. I want them to have a bright future. And I know that starts ensuring they have the nutritious meals they need to thrive.
Unfortunately, not all Montana kids get that start they need each day. That’s why I’m sponsoring HB 648, a bill that will provide high-need schools with a financial incentive to increase their school breakfast program participation.
School meals like breakfast can close the gap between kids who have enough to eat and those who don’t. One in six Montana kids struggle with hunger, and we can dramatically reduce that hunger by making sure kids in need are able to access school breakfast.
But ensuring that more Montana kids are able to eat school breakfast does more than just quiet rumbling stomachs. If our children start the day too hungry to learn, their academic success is doomed before classes even start. For teachers to effectively teach, students’ basic needs must be met. Students cannot do well in school without textbooks, and they can’t be expected to do well in school without the nutrition they need in the morning to fuel their brains and bodies. Research shows that when kids eat breakfast each day, their test scores rise, attendance improves, and discipline problems drop.
Making sure more kids are getting a morning meal can have a profound impact on long term academic achievement in Montana. It leads to better graduation rates, healthier citizens, and a stronger economy. When children are hungry, they are more likely to develop preventable illnesses and struggle to grow up to be strong, healthy, and productive members of our society. This comes at a massive cost to the Montana economy and its competitiveness. Montana businesses want a strong pool of candidates, and making sure kids get the nutrition that fuels their brains and bodies helps to ensure a smarter, healthier workforce of tomorrow. As lawmakers and proud Montanans, we all want a robust economy and employment opportunities for our state.
To build the strong, healthy, educated workforce of tomorrow, we need to focus on the kids of today.
As a father, and as a representative, I’m proud to sponsor this legislative initiative that will ensure that every kid gets to focus on their studies and not on their stomachs. By encouraging more schools to expand their students’ access to school breakfast, HB 648 will allow more kids to fuel their dreams and kick-start Montana’s future.
Rep. Rob Farris-Olsen, D-Helena, represents House District 79 in the Montana Legislature.