A bill that would provide free breakfast to children at Texas’ poorest schools is headed to Gov. Rick Perry's desk after the House passed the measure 73-58 Thursday.
Senate Bill 376, by state Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, would require all schools and school districts where more than 80 percent of students are already eligible for free or reduced-price meals through the federal School Breakfast Program to offer a free breakfast to all students.
The School Breakfast Program reimburses schools — often at more than the cost of the meal — for providing breakfasts to students in households with an annual income below 185 percent of the poverty line.
Students eligible for meals through the School Breakfast Program often do not participate in the program, because of the stigma of receiving a meal that other students do not.
Offering breakfasts to all students allows schools to make the meal part of the school day, supporters say, and because of the increase in federal subsidies, it often results in financial gain to the school.
State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, who sponsored the bill in the House, said he was delighted that the measure passed.
“This was one of my most important bills this session,” he said, adding that he had tried to pass similar bills in previous legislative sessions.
The left-leaning Center for Public Policy Priorities estimates the bill could mean a morning meal for as many as 731,000 additional Texas students.
The bill passed the Senate by a wide margin, but met more resistance in the House.
State Rep. Pat Fallon, R-Frisco, called the school breakfast program an inefficient way to feed the hungry and that it would waste federal dollars.
“I want children to be fed, who doesn’t? But you have to look at this from the perspective of our limited resources,” he said. “At the federal level, for the last 70 years, we’ve acted like we have unlimited resources. That’s the reason we have a $17 trillion debt.”