Earlier today, the Massachusetts House of Representatives unanimously passed House Bill 591, An Act regarding breakfast after the bell. Co-filed by State Representative Andy Vargas (D-Haverhill) and State Representative Aaron Vega (D-Holyoke), the bill will ensure that kids in the Commonwealth’s highest poverty schools start their school day with a healthy breakfast. The bill had over 100 cosponsors.
Breakfast After the Bell would require approximately 600 Massachusetts schools serving low-income students to offer breakfast after the tardy bell rings. The expanded window for school breakfast is estimated to increase food access and decrease food insecurity for approximately 150,000 children across the Commonwealth.
“As Massachusetts works towards closing achievement gaps, student nutrition plays a vital role. Our children should be hungry to learn, not hungry to eat. Breakfast participation doubled, from 42 to 85%, in one Haverhill school after it implemented Breakfast After theBell,“ said Rep. Vargas.
On the heels of the Student Opportunity Act’s investment of $1.5 billion our state’s education system, this school breakfast bill will increase school’s bottom line as well. As a federally reimbursed program, Breakfast After the Bell has the potential to provide up to $25 million statewide to Massachusetts school districts that increase participation rates to 80% and above. These payments are made directly to school nutrition departments, helping to support jobs, update kitchen equipment, and provide healthier menu options.
“This program produces results that close achievement and opportunity gaps. Kids who consistently eat breakfast see improvements in academic scores, improved physical and mental health, better school attendance, higher graduation rates, and even better earning potential as adults. This legislation is a no brainer. This bill makes educational, fiscal and moral sense and I’m thankful to my colleagues in the House for recognizing that,” said Rep. Vargas.
Breakfast After the Bell legislation now moves to the Massachusetts Senate. Senate Bill 267 was filed by State Senator Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett) and is similar to legislation that the Senate has previously supported.