A Utah advocacy group is praising Utah’s governor and lawmakers for approving plans for Utah schools to expand a federal school breakfast program.
Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed a bill this week that was passed by lawmakers during the 2020 Utah Legislative Session. The Start Smart Utah breakfast program increases funding for school breakfast programs in hundreds of Utah schools according to Neil Rickard, Child Nutrition Advocate for Utahns Against Hunger.
"We know what the benefits are in terms of the health gains for students, in terms of the academic benefits for students and we have seen evidence in how it works in other states," Rickard said.
The new piece of legislation gives Utah school administrators and nutrition directors funding to support programs that offer breakfast after the school day begins. Rickard and UAH believe the additional funding will improve the lives of thousands of Utah children and ensure more Utah students will start the day ready to learn.
“As the legislation takes effect a few years in, you are actually going to see a wide number of schools where you have a substantial number of kids that are high need, but just aren’t hitting that threshold for Title I and other programs,” Rickard said.
Senator Lyle Hillyard is the senate chair on the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee. He helped sponsor the bill and said lawmakers have included a provision calling for the Smart Start breakfast program to be eliminated if federal funding to the state is lost.
Rickard believes federal funding for the program is secure because more research is being done that shows the correlation between nutrition and learning.