By Bob Katzen

The Senate 37-0, approved and sent to the House a bill designed to boost participation rates in school breakfast programs in high-poverty schools.

The measure would require that the breakfast be offered only after the school day begins, through a variety of ways including breakfast in the classroom, grab-and-go and second-chance breakfast.

Supporters said that in most schools breakfast is currently offered in the cafeteria before the bell and the participation rate is less than 40 percent of eligible students because of the stigma attached to it. Many students assume that everyone who arrives to school early for the breakfast is from a poor family. The participation rate rises to up to 90 percent of eligible students participating in the lunch program later in the day. They said that moving breakfast from before the bell to after the bell is a proven way to increase breakfast participation.

“No child who shows up to school hungry can possibly be ready to learn,” said Sen. Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett) a sponsor of the original measure. “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.”

“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. “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.”

“By providing breakfast in the classroom and after the bell we have soon dramatic increases in breakfast served and eaten by children.” Said Rep. Aaron Vega (D-Holyoke). “Additionally we have seen (in Holyoke) decreased numbers in school nurse visits, confrontations in the classroom and an increase in on time attendance.”

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