Why Colorado Students Won't Get Any More State Deals on Breakfast

January 21 2011, 1:00 PM

Republicans on the state legislature's Joint Budget Committee have refused to provide the Colorado Department of Education with $124,299 to fund the Start Smart Nutrition Program, which ensures poor children begin their days of study with a square meal. As a result, parents will probably have until March to come up with 30 cents more per child, per meal, according to the Denver Post. State senator Kent Lambert, a Colorado Springs Republican who voted against the request, is clear: "As a family guy myself with children and grandchildren, I take a very strong responsibility to earn money to feed my own family." He adds that perhaps charities will step up: "Out here in El Paso County, for example, we have churches all over the place."

The program serves about 2.3 million meals annually to about 56,000 children. In an opinion in U.S. News & World Report, Laura K. Chapin, a Democratic communications strategist based in Denver, writes that 30 cents doesn't sound like much, "but to a family scraping by on an $8-an-hour job, that hurts." She adds that cutting the funds is shortsighted: "Quite simply, hungry kids don't learn. There is a direct correlation between at-risk kids who get a decent breakfast and their ability to stay in school—and to get a decent job in the future."

The cuts come as First Lady Michelle Obama leads a crusade to improve the nutrition of the nation's children. Lately, she's been applauding Walmart, which has launched an initiative to reduce its customers' intake of sugar, sodium, and fat content in packaged foods, while lowering fruit and vegetable prices (via Treehugger).