City of Medford, Mayor Stephanie M. Burke
Crave Food Services
Food Bank Coalition of Massachusetts
- Food Bank of Western Massachusetts
- Merrimack Valley Food Bank
- The Greater Boston Food Bank
- Worcester County Food Bank
Dear Chairwoman Chang-Diaz, Chairwomen 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 242 and House Bill 327, “An Act regarding Breakfast in the Classroom,” also known as “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 seven 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 600 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 130 Massachusetts schools administer the breakfast program after the bell.
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. The payments, made directly to school nutrition departments, support jobs and healthier menu options, including locally sourced food.
The Kids First Initiative, introduced by Senate President Stanley Rosenberg and Senator Sal DiDomenico as a blueprint for the investment in our children’s future, includes the implementation of Breakfast After the Bell among its recommendations. 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 increase, totaling an additional 80,000 children eating breakfast each school day. Prior to the legislation, Colorado ranked 44th to 11th in the nation for school breakfast participation. Today, it ranks 11th. Currently, Massachusetts ranks 39th in the nation.
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, public affairs manager, The Greater Boston Food Bank at email@example.com.
Rise and Shine Massachusetts