The Massachusetts Legislature passed legislation to fight childhood hunger and boost participation rates in school breakfast programs in schools with high percentages of students from low-income families in the Commonwealth. The bill, An Act regarding breakfast after the bell, would require all public K 12 schools with 60 percent 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.
“In order to provide the highest quality education for our children, they must be granted all of the necessary resources to learn,” said Senator Michael Moore (D-Millbury), Chair of the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security. “Our students should not have to start their academic days hungry, as it puts them at a disadvantage to the ones who were afforded a breakfast. It is proven that those who have a healthy breakfast do better in school and enjoy generally better health. This legislation will ensure all children have the proper nutritional resources and are ready to learn each day.”
Massachusetts currently requires all schools with high percentages of students from low-income families to provide breakfast to every eligible student. However, because breakfast is typically offered before the bell and in the cafeteria, participation levels are low—less than 40 percent—compared to 80 90 percent participation for free and reduced lunch. Moving breakfast from before the bell to after the bell is a proven strategy to boost breakfast participation and ensure that all students have the nutrition they need to start their day ready to learn.
This legislation would require schools across Massachusetts serving low-income students to offer breakfast after the start of the instructional day 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 $25 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.
This bill now moves to the governor for his consideration.