Public Hearing Illuminates the Need for Breakfast After the Bell Bill
“Our kids look up to you.” – Johnny McInnis, Political Director, Boston Teachers Union.
On Monday, June 3rd, the Joint Committee on Education called a hearing for public feedback on pressing legislation. On the docket, Senate Bill 267 and House Bill 591, “an Act Regarding Breakfast After the Bell,” legislation that would dramatically reduce childhood hunger in high-need schools.
Rise and Shine Massachusetts, a statewide coalition of teachers, parents, hunger relief organizations, and advocates that support school breakfast expansion, showed up in force.
A diverse group of over twenty stakeholders testified in favor of Breakfast After the Bell legislation, including representatives from the Massachusetts Teacher Association, MA Parents United, Boston Public Schools, Project Bread, School Nutrition Association, Food Bank Coalition of Massachusetts, among others.
Bill sponsors Representative Andy Vargas (D-Haverhill), Representative Aaron Vega (D- Hampden), and Senator Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett), and other public officials, including Boston City Councilor At-Large Annissa Essaibi George and State Representative Mindy Domb (D-Amherst), also testified to the need for this legislation.
“A child who is lacking the most basic of human needs is not in a condition to learn, live and thrive. We have the means to ensure no child goes hungry here in Massachusetts, and we should.”
– Erin McAleer, President, Project Bread
Today, there are more than 700 public schools in Massachusetts with 60 percent or more students eligible for free or reduced-price meals. While most students in these schools eat lunch, unfortunately, less than half regularly eat breakfast.
“I have seen firsthand the positive impact that this program has had in our district. It is a wraparound support that we can provide to our students help overcome the challenge of hunger; a barrier that otherwise would keep them from being ready to learn and have a negative impact on their academic success.”
– Daniel Warwick, Superintendent, Springfield Public Schools
The state budget attempted to move districts and schools towards implementing Breakfast After the Bell. However, we are not confident the budget mandate is the best for school stakeholders and believe passing the bill into law is the best way to ensure equitable and consistent access to school breakfast for children in need.
This legislation provides a sustainable approach that helps schools achieve this goal with clear guidelines, a roll-out plan, and administrative support. By enacting this bill into law, 150,000 students in the Commonwealth will have increased access to school breakfast.
“While houses of faith can supplement anti-hunger efforts in our communities, we need a systematic approach to address childhood hunger. Clergy of many faiths support the Rise and Shine Massachusetts coalition in urging you to support this critical piece of legislation in the fight to end childhood hunger in our state.”
– Rabbi Joseph Mesler, Temple of Sinai
As the Joint Committee on Education now deliberates, we ask for your continued support and advocacy. The Committee is still accepting testimony from impacted stakeholders and the public. Please contact the members of the Joint Committee on Education and urge them to pass S.267 and H.591.
Not sure what to say or how to submit testimony? Don’t worry! We’ve got you covered. Check out our blog post with a sample testimony template, instructions on how to submit either in-person or written testimony, and talking points!