Bill would ensure that high-poverty schools fight food insecurity by providing breakfast for students after the school day starts
BOSTON – On January 16, Senator Cindy F. Friedman, D-Arlington, joined her Senate colleagues in unanimously passing legislation to fight childhood hunger and boost participation rates in school breakfast programs in the Commonwealth’s high-poverty schools. 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.
“No child should ever have to go hungry or wonder where their next meal will come from,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman. “When our kids have access to nutritious meals, they do better in school – that’s why I’m proudthe Senate passed this bill and has continually prioritized the health and well-being of our children throughout the Commonwealth.”
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 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 to ensure that all students have the nutrition they need to start their day 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 would allow 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 $30 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.
Now that the Senate has passed its version, it will move to reconcile the legislation with a similar version that passed the House of Representatives. To track the progress of the bill, visit https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/S2460.