Great News for Our Students!

The most important investments our state can make during the annual budget process, are the investments we make in our students.

The most important investments our state can make during the annual budget process, are the investments we make in our students. Directing funds to programs that help our next generation of innovators, business leaders and public servants can help the whole community thrive for years to come.

This year the state is investing a record amount in our schools. Funding that will go toward reducing class size, modernizing science labs, and offering a robust curriculum to all students. Despite this injection of much-needed funding, Pennsylvania still has a long way to go toward ensuring every student regardless of ZIP code has access to equitable learning opportunities.

However, this year’s state budget included an additional investment: $46 million for universal free breakfast. These funds will ensure that 1.7 million Pennsylvania students – including every student in the Philadelphia and William Penn school districts that I represent - will have access to a nutritious meal to start their school day.

Why is this important? Lots of reasons.

First, it’s hard to focus when you’re hungry. That is true for adults and kids. And studies show that kids who are hungry have problems focusing, a shorter attention span, and have increased behavioral and discipline issues during the school day.

On the other hand, having reliable access to a nutritious food can improve attendance rates and academic achievement for some students.

By offering a free breakfast to every student regardless of their family’s income can have other important outcomes, like reducing the stigma associated with being eligible for free and reduced meals due to poverty. As a result, some kids grab a school breakfast, who otherwise might not.

It can also reduce the administrative burden on the school to manage a free and reduced breakfast program and on busy caregivers, who don’t need to complete cumbersome paperwork for their child to qualify for free breakfast.

Finally, offering free breakfast to all students can help our communities combat food insecurity, and offering breakfast in school can often provide students with a more nutritious option than can be bought by individual families at the grocery store.

Offering universal free breakfast is a win for communities, schools – and most of all, students – across the commonwealth.

When we work together in Harrisburg, we can do amazing things for our communities, and free breakfast is a great example of how we can build a better Pennsylvania together.

PA Speaker of the House Joanna McClinton represents the 191st House District, which includes portions of Philadelphia and Delaware County.