By Amy Johnson, director, Lutheran Office for Public Policy in Wisconsin

As students return to school, many will rely on their school meal program for a nutritious meal. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

This month Wisconsin students will return to their classrooms and take on the challenges of the year ahead. Far too many students will also be battling hunger while they are trying to focus on their studies.

If you’ve ever taught a student who’s gone without dinner from the night before, or breakfast that morning, you know empty stomachs are distracting and make it tough to learn. If a child has trouble learning it makes it even harder to achieve success in school, and lack of achievement can be a major road block in a child’s future.

This is the cycle of poverty playing out each day in our schools. However, there is a simple way to break that cycle and give our kids the tools they need to succeed. Children of all ages need three healthy meals a day, and Wisconsin’s students count on the school breakfast, lunch and after school meal programs to stay strong and focused.

Each day over 300,000 students in Wisconsin get a healthy start with a breakfast in their classroom. Hours later, school lunch programs provide a free meal to 330,000 low income students.

These meal programs are a strong and vital partnership between our schools and our state and federal government. Schools depend on the support from our state and the USDA to fund school meals, and the future of our state depends on all children having the food they need to succeed. Invest in our kids now, support school meals!