As governor, I'm delighted to proclaim March 2016 as "Arkansas School Breakfast Month" to highlight the academic and health benefits of school breakfast programs. It's been proven that students who eat breakfast are more likely to exhibit better behavior and concentrate more on their classwork throughout the day.
More than 280,000 Arkansas school children qualify for free or reduced priced school meals. However, only 60 percent of these students are eating breakfast at school. By offering breakfast at the beginning of the school day, we are helping to provide a greater foundation for learning.
In fact, studies show that 91 percent of educators believe breakfast is important for student academic achievement. In Arkansas, we are supporting that notion through the Community Eligibility Provision program. It offers high-need Arkansas schools a chance to serve breakfast and lunch to students at no cost.
This is already proving to be a successful approach. Schools and parents are seeing evidence of students benefitting from the school breakfast program in Arkansas. Attendance has improved, academic performance has increased, fewer trips are being made to the school nurse and students are more focused on their classwork. The program is two-fold: Community Eligibility Provision not only helps our kids, but it helps our schools through reimbursement funds that go toward strengthening school nutritional programs and infrastructure.
As we kick-off Arkansas School Breakfast Month, I ask schools that have NOT adopted an alternative breakfast delivery method, to do so for the coming school year. We all share the same goals, and we all want to see our students succeed. I encourage the schools that qualify for the Community Eligibility Provision program to take advantage of these opportunities and to maximize the number of participating students.
Making sure our students have access to a nutritious breakfast at school not only supports my Healthy Active Arkansas plan, but it gives our students a chance to learn with an alert mind and a full stomach. After all, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Let's teach this to our kids, and help them start out the school day -- and every day -- the right way.