Lunch (or breakfast) lady is the lieutenant governorLt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon launched a statewide campaign to boost participation in Minnesota’s school breakfast program among low-income students Thursday by taking the matter into her own hands — and a ladle — by serving meals to children at Duluth’s Piedmont Elementary School.
By: News Tribune staff, Duluth News Tribune
Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon launched a statewide campaign to boost participation in Minnesota’s school breakfast program among low-income students Thursday by taking the matter into her own hands — and a ladle — by serving meals to children at Duluth’s Piedmont Elementary School.
“Hunger is too important for us to ignore,” Prettner Solon said after loading strawberries, cantaloupes and other breakfast treats onto the plates of students making their way along the breakfast line. “Its impact on education too serious to be left unchecked.”
The School Breakfast Challenge is part of an initiative sponsored by Hunger-Free Minnesota and the Midwest Dairy Council, in cooperation with the state Department of Education and the Children’s Defense Fund of Minnesota. It will provide financial incentives to selected schools that increase their breakfasts served to children eligible for free and reduced-price meals.
For the schools, the reward — in addition to more alert and attentive students — is an unrestricted $0.10 per meal incentive that can be used for any school purpose.
An estimated 200,000 Minnesota children go hungry every year, Prettner Solon said. Many schools have failed to use the state’s breakfast program, with overall use at only 40 percent, officials said.
And studies, including a recent one by the University of Minnesota, show that kids who start their day with a nutritious breakfast have better attendance records, higher math scores and improved graduation rates.
“Students need to be well-nourished,” said Duluth schools Superintendent Bill Gronseth, who also was a breakfast server. “As a school district, we have adopted universal breakfast that provides free breakfast to all students.”
About 45 percent of Duluth public school students are eligible for free or reduced-priced meals, according to data from Hunger-Free Minnesota.
Duluth City Councilor Jennifer Julsrud, who also attended the event, said it resonated with her personally.
“It’s personal for me because both of my parents grew up hungry,” she said. “My father actually dropped out of school in the eighth grade so that he could get a job.”
After helping students in the lunch line, Piedmont PTA President Tim Doyle sat down at one table, smiling and joking with students as they munched on carrot sticks and grapes.
“The importance of this program is making sure we can close any gap there may be in how kids start their day,” Doyle said. “No matter what their background, kids deserve to start out their day at the same level.”