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Arkansas officials kick off School Breakfast Month with visit to Chicot Elementary

From left to right: Bill Ludwig, Kathy Webb, Sarah Sanders, and Gina Curry celebrate the start of School Breakfast Month at Chicot Elementary.
Maggie Ryan
Little Rock Public Radio
(From L to R) USDA Southwest Regional Administrator Bill Ludwig, Little Rock City Director Kathy Webb, Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Chicot Elementary Principal Gina Curry celebrate the start of School Breakfast Month in Arkansas on Wednesday.

March is School Breakfast Month in Arkansas. To celebrate, members of the Arkansas Legislature visited Chicot Elementary School in southwest Little Rock Wednesday morning.

The school has started serving breakfast to students in the classroom, instead of in the cafeteria before the first school bell rings. The program is the result of a partnership between the school, the governor’s office, and the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance.

Chicot Elementary Principal Gina Curry says giving kids food in the classroom directly addresses food insecurity.

“Providing our students breakfast not only ensures that they start their day with a nutritious meal, but also promotes a positive and inclusive learning environment where every child feels cared for and supported.” Curry said.

Arkansas is the most food-insecure state in the nation, according to a recent study from the USDA. The nonprofit Feeding America states one in five Arkansas children face hunger.

Bill Ludwig, Southwest Regional Administrator for the USDA, works with the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance on programs supporting nutritional access and education. He said providing breakfast to kids is just as important as the national school lunch program, but 37% of eligible kids don’t get to eat that breakfast. He said the reason for that is the school bus system.

“They're so efficient that [students] get to the school just for them to get off the bus and into the classroom. They don’t have time to get into the cafeteria and eat breakfast.” Ludwig said breakfast is the most nutritional meal of the day for kids, but many aren’t able to get a healthy breakfast consistently.

“If you serve breakfast in the classroom that’s not an issue.”

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders joined the visit. She told visitors she wants Arkansas to be a leader in expanding food access for kids.

“We know that kids who have breakfast are going to do better at school, their attendance is going to be higher. Their overall learning and health of the student is going to be better because they’re not thinking about where their next meal is coming from.” Sanders said. “And we’re seeing the impact that has on students across the state.”

Both Democratic and Republican legislators joined the event. Sanders said this shows how important the issue of food access is to Arkansans.

There are a lot of unlikely partnerships that have formed focusing on this issue. And I know that if we continue working together this is something we can 100% address.”

Maggie Ryan is a reporter and local host of All Things Considered for Little Rock Public Radio.