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Cash prizes will go to schools that get more kids eating breakfast

Charla Bear
Students at Washington Elementary in Auburn choose breakfast items from a cart before heading to their classrooms to eat. It's a model touted as a successful way to get more kids to utilize morning meals at schools.

More than 300,000 kids who qualify for free or reduced breakfast in Washington are not eating it.

Participation in the state’s early morning meal program is so low, educators and children’s advocates have launched a new effort to get schools focused on the issue.

The Fuel Up First with Breakfast Challenge is backed by Randy Dorn, state superintendent of public instruction. He says increasing the number of kids who start school with full stomachs is not only good for them, it’s critical to the state:

“Number one thing in this state, our constitution says, the paramount duty of this state is to educate young people," Dorn says. "And you cannot educate young people if they’re hungry.”

The way to to do away with hunger in schools, he added, is by establishing this program and expanding it.

The superintendent and various partners, including the Washington State Dairy Council, are offering ideas for how schools can boost participation, along with grants to help them get started. A few options include:

  • carts that bring breakfast into the classroom
  • "Grab and go" breakfast items
  • promotion of school breakfast options

Schools that boost breakfast participation the most will win cash prizes. 
Dorn says while some districts worry that bringing food to class could mean more distractions and messes, he’s confident it’s worth the tradeoff.

Charla joined us in January, 2010 and is excited to be back in Seattle after several years in Washington, DC, where she was a director and producer for NPR. Charla has reported from three continents and several outlets including Marketplace, San Francisco Chronicle and NPR. She has a master of journalism from University of California, Berkeley and a bachelor's degree in architecture from University of Washington.