Massachusetts Ranks 33rd in the Nation for School Breakfast
This week is National School Breakfast Week, five days dedicated to raising awareness about the healthy benefits of a school breakfast.
School breakfast is a critical tool for ensuring that every child has access to a nutritious breakfast, helping them start their school day ready to learn. However, in Massachusetts, too many children from food-insecure households are missing out on breakfast, and consequently are not receiving the nutrition they need to start their day.
According to a study released by the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) last month, Massachusetts ranked at just 33rd out of 50 states in school breakfast participation in 2016-2017, despite a 7.9 percent increase compared to the prior year. Massachusetts already requires high need schools offer breakfast; however, because breakfast is typically offered before the bell and in the cafeteria, participation levels are less than 40%, compared to 80-90% participation for free and reduced lunch.
“Progress is being made, but still only half of students eligible for free and reduced-priced school meals in Massachusetts are getting breakfast at school,” said Catherine D’Amato, president and CEO, The Greater Boston Food Bank. “That’s why we need to pass legislation that ensures every child eligible in our state starts the day with a full stomach.”
The Greater Boston Food Bank heads up the Rise and Shine Massachusetts coalition supporting S.242/H.327 An Act Regarding Breakfast After the Bell, sponsored by Senator Sal DiDomencio (D-Everett) and Representative Aaron Vega (D-Holyoke), now under consideration by the Massachusetts Senate Committee on Ways and Means. This legislation would require more than 600 high-poverty public schools educating over 260,000 students offer breakfast after the start of the school day. By moving breakfast from before the bell and in the cafeteria, to after the bell where it can be eaten in the classroom, Massachusetts schools can boost their breakfast participation rates and help to overcome common barriers to missing breakfast before school, such as late bus arrivals and social stigma.
Over 100 high need schools across the Commonwealth are already operating after the bell breakfast programs and seeing the benefits of moving to this type of school breakfast model. Furthermore, a number of other states that have passed similar legislation have made significant gains in their national breakfast participation ranking: Washington, D.C. moved from 20th to 1st and Colorado from 20th to 11th. By passing An Act regarding breakfast after the bell, Massachusetts can join these areas, helping to ensure that every child in the Commonwealth begins their day with the nutrition they need in order to learn.