By Bob Katzen
The State Senate approved a bill designed to boost participation rates in school breakfast programs in high-poverty schools. The measure would require that 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. Currently, only 150,000 of the 300,000 students eligible for breakfast actually take part in it. The House has approved a different version of the bill and the Senate version now goes to the House for consideration.
Supporters said that most school breakfasts are currently offered in the cafeteria before the bell and the participation rate is less than 40 percent of eligible students because bus schedules and family obligations often result in the student not being able to arrive at school in time for breakfast. Participation is also low because of the stigma attached to the program. They said many students assume that everyone who arrives to school early for 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.
“No child who shows up to school hungry can possibly be ready to learn,” said Sen. Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett), the 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.”
“We all understand that a hungry student is not ready to be a successful student, and Breakfast After the Bell is a proven strategy to close the hunger gap and ensure that all kids can start their school day on a level playing field,” said Sen. Jason Lewis (D-Winchester), Senate Chair of the Committee on Education. “As the commonwealth continues to strive for an excellent and equitable educational experience for every child, regardless of their zip code or family income, this is an important step along the road to closing opportunity and achievement gaps in our schools.”