Published: 7/31/2020 4:05:01 PM
Modified: 7/31/2020 4:04:57 PM
Sen. Anne Gobi (D-Spencer) said, “As so many struggle with food insecurity during this pandemic, it is important that we focus on initiatives that have a proven track record of providing healthy, nutritious food directly to those who need it, in this case being our children and students,” commented Gobi, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Higher Education. “A hungry child cannot learn, and I would like to thank all of the parents and student advocates for their consistent and tireless efforts on behalf of our students.”
“Research shows that students who eat a healthy breakfast get better grades, go to the nurse less frequently, and miss fewer days of school,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “Yet, too often, missed meals equal missed opportunities for our children. As a state, we simply cannot accept hungry students as part of our reality. Students who don’t eat breakfast start every single day at a very real disadvantage to their peers; passing this bill into law ensures that students across the Commonwealth have equitable access to nutrition to ensure that they start every day right, ready to learn.”
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.