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Public Hearing Held on Breakfast After the Bell Legislation

July 21, 2017 / News

On Tuesday, July 18th, the Joint Committee on Education held a public hearing for input on several pieces of legislation, including Senate Bill 242 and House Bill 327, “An act regarding breakfast in the classroom,” also known as Breakfast After the Bell. The Rise and Shine Massachusetts coalition assembled a diverse group of stakeholders, including school officials, teachers, parents, students, and experts, to testify in support of these bills.

public hearing
Salem Superintendent Margarita Ruiz providing testimony in favor of breakfast after the bell.

In total, twenty-two stakeholders came out and testified in favor of the bill. Representatives from the Massachusetts Teacher Association, MA Parents United, Nutrition Directors from Worcester, Wareham and Boston Public Schools, and Democrats for Education Reform, among others, expressed their support for mandating breakfast served after the bell. Public officials Boston City Councilor At-Large Annissa Essaibi George and Representative Aaron Vega (D-5th Hampden) also testified in support of the legislation.

Dr. Ana Poblacion, a Dietitian and Post-Doctoral Fellow at Children’s HealthWatch, put it plainly: “The research is clear.  Students who participate in school breakfast have lower rates of absence and tardiness, improved test scores, fewer visits to the nurse, improved dietary intake, better health outcomes, and specifically, lower body mass index, and better psychosocial functioning, such as fewer behavior problems and less anxiety, depression and hyperactivity.”

public hearing
From left to right: Nick Puleo, Director of Government Relations for Massachusetts Teachers Association; Laura Benavidez, Executive Director of Food and Nutrition Services, Boston Public Schools; Chairwoman Sonia Chang-Diaz; Catherine D’Amato, President and CEO of The Greater Boston Food Bank and spokesperson for Rise and Shine Massachusetts.

Assuaging the concerns of school districts wary to the logistical challenges of implementing breakfast programming, Patrick Roach, Chief Financial and Operations Officer of Springfield Public Schools, attested “the benefit to our students by far outweigh any challenges that we faced.” Springfield Public Schools began rolling out breakfast in the classroom almost three years ago, with the program now in over fifty schools. The result: participation rates shot up from approximately 25% to consistently over 80%, with some schools reaching above 90% participation.

Today, there are more than 600 public schools in Massachusetts with 60 percent or more students eligible for free or reduced-price meals, under the Federal School Lunch Program. Nearly 300,000 students attending these schools are eligible for free breakfast, however, half do not receive it. This legislation would increase access to breakfast for those 150,000 students.

As the Joint Committee on Education now deliberates, we ask for your continued support and advocacy. Please contact the members of the Joint Committee on Education and urge them to pass S.242 and H.327. If you wish to submit written testimony or learn more, please contact Catherine Drennan at cdrennan@gbfb.org or 617-598-5067.

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