Barnstable Community Horace Mann Charter Public School
Berkshire Community Action Council
Boston Teachers Union
Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts
City of Medford, Mayor Stephanie M. Burke
Crave Food Services
Democrats for Education Reform
Food Bank Coalition of Massachusetts
- Food Bank of Western Massachusetts
- Merrimack Valley Food Bank
- The Greater Boston Food Bank
- Worcester County Food Bank
Food For Free
Food Research and Action Center (FRAC)
Greater Boston Legal Services
Greater Worcester Community Foundation
Health Care For All
Health Care Without Harm
Holyoke Public Schools
Let’s Talk About Food
Massachusetts Academy of Dietetic and Nutrition
MA Action for Healthy Kids
Massachusetts Advocates for Children
Massachusetts Farm to School
Massachusetts Food System Collaborative
Mass Law Reform Institute (MLRI)
Massachusetts Parents United
Massachusetts Public Health Association (MPHA)
Massachusetts School Administrators’ Association (MSAA)
Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA)
Mayor’s Office of Food Access, City of Boston
Metropolitan Area Planning Council
Mill City Grows
Poor People’s United Fund
Shape Up Somerville
Share Our Strength
South Middlesex Opportunity Council (SMOC)
Springfield Public Schools
Strategies for Children
The Open Door
Temple Sinai of Sharon
Unitarian Universalist Church of Worcester
Western Area Massachusetts Dietetic Association
Whittier Street Health Center
Worcester Food Policy Council
Dear Chair Lewis, Chair Peisch, and the distinguished members of the Joint Committee on Education:
We the undersigned of the Rise and Shine Massachusetts coalition, made up of Massachusetts school districts and national, state and local organizations, are writing in support of Senate Bill 267 and House Bill 591, “An Act regarding Breakfast after the bell.”
This legislation would require all public K-12 schools in Massachusetts with 60 percent or more students eligible for free and reduced-price meals to offer breakfast after the instructional day begins.
One in eight children in Massachusetts lives in a family at risk of hunger because they are not able to afford enough food. Studies have shown that children living in food insecure households are academically disadvantaged and have an increased likelihood of physical and mental health issues and behavioral disorders.
By providing low-income children access to free and reduced-price meals, schools play a critical role in alleviating childhood hunger. In Massachusetts, schools with 60 percent or more students eligible for free and reduced-price meals, nearly 300,000 children also qualify for free and reduced-price breakfast. However, only about 150,000 students currently participate in breakfast programs.
Offering breakfast after the bell has proven to increase participation rates dramatically—in some cases increasing from as low as 40 percent to 85 percent.
Children who eat breakfast at school have:
- Lower rates of absences and tardiness
- Improved test scores
- Fewer visits to the school nurse
- Improved dietary intake
- Better health outcomes
The Breakfast After the Bell legislation would require approximately 700 Massachusetts schools serving low-income students to offer breakfast after the bell through a variety of delivery models: breakfast in the classroom, grab-and-go and second-chance breakfast. Currently, about 300 of those low-income Massachusetts schools administer the breakfast program after the bell.
A federally reimbursed program, National School Breakfast has the potential to provide up to $30 million statewide to Massachusetts school districts that increase participation rates to 80 percent and above. The payments, made directly to school nutrition departments, support jobs and healthier menu options, including locally sourced food.
Last year, Children’s HealthWatch and The Greater Boston Food Bank released a study which stated that the health-related costs of hunger are $2.4 billion annually. That study came with a list of policy recommendations aimed to lower those costs and one of them is passing Breakfast After the Bell legislation. Further, the 2015 Massachusetts Food System Plan also recommended breakfast in the classroom as a means of expanding healthy food education and food choices for children.
Breakfast After the Bell legislation has successfully passed in Colorado, Illinois, Nevada, New Mexico, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia. In Colorado, where schools implemented breakfast in the classroom in 2013, participation rates have increased by 61 percent, totaling an additional 80,000 children eating breakfast each school day. Prior to the legislation, Colorado ranked 44th in the nation for school breakfast participation. Today, it ranks 17th. Currently, Massachusetts ranks 33rd in the nation, unchanged from last year.
There was budget language mandating Breakfast After the Bell included in the FY19 budget, but that requirement was not recognized as a mandate until January 2019. As a result, more than 300 schools are now expected to implement a school breakfast between April 1 and June 1 of this school year. This unrealistic expectation demonstrates the need for comprehensive legislation that allows for a more sustainable and successful implementation of Breakfast After the Bell in these schools.
The Rise and Shine Massachusetts coalition urges the committee to support this critical piece of legislation in the fight to end childhood hunger in our state. All children deserve to start their school day fed and ready to learn.
Should you have any questions or would like additional information, please contact Catherine Drennan, Director of Communications and Public Affairs, The Greater Boston Food Bank at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rise and Shine Massachusetts