RSMA STATEMENT: SENATE PASSES BREAKFAST AFTER THE BELL LEGISLATION
January 16, 2020
Contact: Catherine Drennan
Senate Unanimously Passes Breakfast After the Bell Legislation
BOSTON– Today, the Massachusetts Senate unanimously passed legislation to fight childhood hunger and ensure more kids start their school day with a healthy breakfast in the Commonwealth’s highest poverty schools. Senate Bill 2460, An Act regarding breakfast after the bell, would require all high-poverty schools public K-12 schools to offer breakfast after the instructional day begins. Expanding the window for school breakfast would increase food access and decrease food insecurity for approximately 150,000 children across the Commonwealth.
Our Rise and Shine Massachusetts coalition made up of over 50 hunger-relief advocates and school stakeholders is so grateful to the leadership in the Senate, including our bill sponsor Senator Sal DiDomenico, as well as the Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Education, Senator Jason Lewis, and Senate President Karen Spilka.
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 10%— compared to 80-90% participation for free and reduced lunch. Consequently, children are showing up to school hungry and unprepared to learn. Expanding 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.”
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.
“We have spent the last several years building a strong coalition of support, which includes over fifty school stakeholders, hunger advocates and legislators,” said Catherine D’Amato, CEO at The Greater Boston Food Bank, who leads the Rise and Shine Massachusetts, a statewide coalition working to pass the legislation. “This is a great step forward toward passing a bill that will increase access to school breakfast to over 150,000 low-income students across Massachusetts.”
On the heels of the Student Opportunity Act’s investment of $1.5 billion our state’s education system, this school breakfast bill will increase school’s bottom line as well. As a federally reimbursed program, Breakfast After the Bell has the potential to provide up to $25 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 Massachusetts House of Representatives unanimously passed House Bill 4218 in November 2019. We look forward to moving the bill forward to the Governor’s office to sign the bill into law and ensure equitable access to school breakfast for all students in the Commonwealth.
About Rise and Shine Massachusetts
Rise and Shine Massachusetts, led by The Greater Boston Food Bank, is a statewide coalition of over fifty hunger-relief and education organizations advocating for state legislation that increases equitable access and participation in school breakfast for thousands of low-income children across our Commonwealth. To learn more, visit www.riseandshinema.org.