Thursday, January 16, 2020

Senate Gives Ringing Endorsement to Breakfast After the Bell

The Senate today took action to fight childhood hunger and boost participation in school breakfast programs in the state’s high-poverty schools. The bill, an “Act Regarding Breakfast After The Bell”, would requires that all public schools with 60 percent or more students eligible for free or reduced-price meals offer breakfast after the school day begins.

Healthy food and the opportunity to be nourished are elemental needs and our school children who lack this access, and it is sadly a surprisingly high number who do, will be far better able to function and focus on academics and healthy lifelong habits under the provisions of this bill. The Senate’s actions will help school districts to better leverage both federal and private funds and ultimately change lives for the better. As a federally reimbursed program, “Breakfast After the Bell” has the potential to provide up to $30 million statewide to Massachusetts school districts that increase participation rates to 80 percent and above. These payments are made directly to school nutrition departments, helping to support jobs, update kitchen equipment, and provide healthier menu options.

Experts estimate that passing the bill, Senate 2460, will assist with access to school breakfast to more than 150,000 low-income students across the state.

Massachusetts currently requires all high-poverty schools to provide breakfast to every eligible student. However, because breakfast is typically offered before the bell and in the cafeteria, participation levels are low— at less than 40 percent— compared to 80-90 percent participation for free and reduced lunch.