Utah Senate panel kills school breakfast bill

(Trent Nelson | Tribune file photo) Students at Copperview Elementary in Midvale line up for breakfast at the start of class, March 3, 2015. Jordan School District has started a pilot program at Copperview Elementary school where breakfast is served during class, rather than before school, so that kids who can't make it to school early don't have to be hungry during the day.

The Senate Economic Development and Workforce Services Committee has rejected a bill aimed at expanding access to school breakfast for students enrolled in the National School Lunch Program.

HB222 would have also allowed for an “alternative breakfast” program that would feed students even after instruction time had started.

Neil Rickard with Utahns Against Hunger said these programs “increase participation, increase access to food, improve health outcomes and improve the academic performance of the students.”

Education researchers and officials came out to support the bill, saying there is significant evidence that access to school breakfast improves educational outcomes for children, including increased focus.

However, Sen. David Hinkins, R-Orangeville, disagreed and questioned why it isn’t the responsibility of parents to provide breakfast, instead of having the state step in.

“Parents should be parents,” Hinkins said during Wednesday’s hearing. “I mean, my mother fixed my breakfast; my wife fixed my kids’ breakfast.”

Rickard responded saying that “the most important thing parents can do is care for the success of their children” and that this bill would help with that. Hinkins shot back “OK, whatever” before moving forward with public comment.

After proposing the bill be recommended for full Senate consideration, Sen. Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City, said children shouldn’t suffer because of neglectful parents.

“It’s not [the children’s] choice where they landed. They didn’t pick,” she said, adding the Legislature has a civic duty to take care of the children who weren’t fortunate enough to have responsible parents.

Advocates of the bill were frustrated with its defeat on a 3-2 party line vote against it. They questioned why the bill wasn’t being heard in the Senate Education Committee. Hinkins also wondered the same thing, saying HB222 had landed in a “kill committee.”

Utahns Against Hunger issued a statement Thursday expressing “deep disappointment” with the committee vote.

“This legislation would give thousands of Utah students, both urban and rural, access to food without incurring additional state funds,” the statement read. “In a world where both parents have to work full-time to provide for their children, this legislation would ensure that students are learning with a full stomach. … Feeding kids isn’t a political ideology, it is an investment in their success. We hope that the Senate will reconsider the legislation before the end of the session.”