Gov. Blagojevich signs law requiring more
schools to serve breakfast
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Studies show proper nourishment aids
[FEB. 16, 2005]
CHICAGO -- On Tuesday Gov.
Rod Blagojevich signed the Childhood Hunger Relief Act, requiring
more Illinois schools to implement a breakfast program.
House Bill 756, sponsored by Rep. Susana Mendoza, D-Chicago, and
Sen. Miguel del Valle, D-Chicago, stipulates that all schools in
which at least 40 percent of the students are eligible for free or
reduced lunch must also provide a breakfast meal. Such programs have
been proven to help children perform and behave better in school.
"Kids that start the day hungry can
have a hard time concentrating and doing their best in our schools,"
said Gov. Blagojevich. "If we want these children to contribute
productively both inside and outside the classroom, then we need to
do our best to ensure that they aren't expected to do it on an empty
"I want to thank the
members of the Illinois Hunger Coalition who have worked with me
over the past several years as we have fought to pass this important
legislation," del Valle said. "We have seen study after study that
has indicated that children who start the day with a nutritious
breakfast perform better in school. Now, children from low-income
families throughout Illinois who may have had little or nothing to
eat in the morning will benefit from having a good breakfast to
start their day."
"I am pleased that my fellow
legislators as well as the governor are now seeing hunger as a
public policy issue," Mendoza said. "Hungry children cannot learn,
and we need to feed their bodies before they will be able to digest
what we are feeding their minds."
Numerous studies conclusively link
proper nutrition with cognitive ability. The Illinois Hunger
Coalition, which has worked for four years to pass the Childhood
Hunger Relief Act, reports that students who are properly nourished
at the start of the school day perform academically higher in class
and on standardized tests, are more alert, have fewer visits to
school nurses, have lower rates of tardiness, and have lower rates
of behavioral disorders. One specific study, conducted by the
American School Food Service Association, found that among
fourth-grade students, those who had the least protein in their
diets had the lowest achievement scores.
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"Decades of scientific
research have taught us that children cannot concentrate when their
heads and stomachs ache from hunger," said Diane M. Doherty,
executive director of the Illinois Hunger Coalition. "For years,
Illinois has had one of the worst records in the nation for serving
breakfast to hungry children and retrieving federal dollars to pay
for it. We applaud the governor and the General Assembly for this
significant decision which will help so many of our children."
Approximately 45 percent of the more
than 1.8 million Illinois school-age children are eligible for free
or reduced lunch. But, while cafeterias across the state served more
than 100 million free lunches in 2003, they served approximately 30
million breakfasts. In October 2003, Illinois was ranked 48th among
the states in providing breakfast to low-income students.
House Bill 756 gives school
districts 90 days to determine which schools in their districts are
required to offer the breakfast program and to implement the service
there. The programs will be supported through a variety of means,
including available federal funding and other state or local
The new law also encourages
districts in which 50 percent or more of the students qualify for
free or reduced lunch to look into offering a summer food service
program, either through the district or a nonprofit or private
agency, by 2006.
The legislation is effective
[News release from the