by Katie Herndon Dawkins, North Carolina Alliance for Health Communications Manager
Some things just make sense. Putting kids first is one of those things. We all have a role to play in helping kids succeed. Ensuring students have access to school meals at no cost to families puts kids first.
When kids have everything they need at school, including nutritious meals, we all benefit. Kids who eat nutritious school meals do better in school. They aren’t worried about their stomachs rumbling with hunger or whether or not they have enough money in their account for a meal. Instead, they can focus on learning. Schools that offer no-cost breakfast and lunch are more likely to have high-performance grades, better attendance rates, and meet growth targets. Let’s give kids the tools they need to succeed. The state can easily provide no-cost school meals to ensure every kid in every public school has what they need to succeed.
When schools offer no-cost meals, all kids are able to enjoy breakfast and lunch without the shame and stigma that comes with the current system. No one knows whose family qualifies for free or reduced-price lunch. Kids feel more comfortable going through the line, choosing their food, and sharing a meal with their friends. Sharing a meal with others builds community, trust, and friendship. But doing so under the weight of shame and stigma does the opposite. Kids shouldn’t be burdened by their family’s lack of economic prosperity. No-cost school meals support the confidence, self-esteem, and mood of all kids.
Imagine a North Carolina where kids have everything they need to thrive, including nutritious school meals. Kids can gather around the lunch table without shame or stigma and share a nutritious meal with their classmates. They can focus on learning and just being a kid. We can improve student outcomes and strengthen our communities by making breakfast and lunch available in North Carolina public schools at no cost to families. Let’s put kids first.