As the mother of two little girls, I think a lot about what their lives will be like, and my responsibility to protect them, nourish them and give them the best start I can, every single day. And it's not just about my daughters. I know that our country needs every kid to grow up smart, healthy and strong.
But there are so many parents out there who aren't as fortunate as I am, and so many children who come to school each day hungry and tired. There's a new report out this week from No Kid Hungry about kids facing hunger at school, and their research reveals a national crisis.
Three out of every four educators they surveyed said their students regularly come to school hungry, and many of them say it happens at least once a week. When kids come to school with empty stomachs, they can't concentrate, they lack energy, they disrupt class and -- of course -- their grades suffer.
It's a terrible problem, one so vast and so deeply connected to poverty and inequality that it seems insolvable.
But it isn't. There is a solution, and it's a simple one. Breakfast.
Almost every child facing hunger attends a public school, where they get a healthy lunch, for free or at a reduced price, every day. The system, the staff and the infrastructure to feed daily meals to kids is already in place, in our neighborhood schools. Most importantly, federal funding exists to pay for not just lunches at school, but breakfast too.
So why aren't more kids eating breakfast at school? (And believe me, they're not. Of the 16 million kids who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, less than half are also getting breakfast.)
A couple reasons. For one thing, school breakfast is typically served before the bell rings, which means kids who need that meal have to be there early. That's hard for any parent.
Another reason, one that breaks my heart, is stigma. Everyone knows that the kids eating breakfast in the cafeteria in the morning are the poor kids, and no one wants to be seen as the poor kid.
The thought of kids failing in school because they lacked such a simple thing -- breakfast -- makes me crazy. But we can do something about it.
To find out how, visit the Hunger in Our Schools report online. Hear stories from teachers and principals, and find out what we can do, together, for our kids.
Kristen Bell is an actress, mother of two and spokesperson for the No Kid Hungry campaign. Learn more about No Kid Hungry at nokidhungry.org.
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