Massachusetts Senate Passes Breakfast After the Bell Legislation

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Today, the Massachusetts Senate passed legislation to fight childhood hunger and boost participation rates in school breakfast programs in the Commonwealth’s high-poverty schools. S.2626, An Act regarding breakfast after the bell, would require all public K-12 schools with 60% or more students eligible for free or reduced-price meals under the federal National School Lunch Program to offer breakfast after the instructional day begins.

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%— compared to 80-90% participation for free and reduced lunch. Consequently, children are showing up to school hungry and unprepared to learn. Moving breakfast from before the bell to after the bell is a proven, simple, and effective strategy to boost breakfast participation in an effort to ensure that all students are fed and show up ready to learn every day.

“No child who shows up to school hungry can possibly be ready to learn,” said Senator Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett), Assistant Majority Leader of the Massachusetts Senate and the lead sponsor of the bill. “I have seen the success of breakfast after the bell in my own district, and I am confident that this legislation will help to ensure that every child in the Commonwealth has access to a stigma-free and nutritious breakfast. Thank you to Senate President Karen Spilka for her commitment to making this a priority for the Massachusetts Senate and the Rise and Shine Coalition for their dedicated advocacy and tireless work to ensure that all children of the Commonwealth are able to start their days ready to learn.”

“There’s truth to the adage that breakfast is the most important meal of the day---research shows that students who eat a healthy breakfast to start the day get better grades, go to the nurse less frequently, and miss fewer days of school, said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “Yet, too often, missed meals equal missed opportunities for our children. As a state, we simply cannot accept hungry students as part of our reality. Students who don’t eat breakfast start every single day at a very real disadvantage to their peers; this legislation ensures that students across the Commonwealth have equitable access to nutrition to ensure that they start every day right, ready to learn.”

“We have spent the last two years building a strong coalition of support, which includes school stakeholders, hunger advocates and legislators,” said Catherine Drennan, senior manager of public affairs at The Greater Boston Food Bank and the Rise and Shine Massachusetts coalition. “This is the moment we have been waiting for and we are looking forward to passing a bill that will assist with increasing access to school breakfast to over 150,000 low-income students across Massachusetts.”

This legislation would require approximately 600 Massachusetts schools serving low-income students to offer breakfast after the tardy bell through a variety of delivery models, including breakfast in the classroom, grab-and-go and second-chance breakfast. This flexibility allows school districts to select the model that best fits their students’ needs.

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% and above. These payments are made directly to school nutrition departments, helping to support jobs, update kitchen equipment, and provide healthier menu options.

The bill now moves to the House of Representatives.

 

Sarah Bldogett