BOSTON – State Representative Richard Haggerty (D-Woburn) recently supported passage of the Breakfast After the Bell initiative, which provides for expanded school breakfast options for Massachusetts students in low-income communities.
House Bill 4218, An Act regarding breakfast after the bell, will help ensure students are better prepared for learning by providing them with a healthy breakfast at school. The bill was enacted by the House and Senate on July 28, and is now on Governor Charlie Baker’s desk awaiting his signature.
According to the Ending Hunger in Our Classrooms 2019 Annual Report, Massachusetts ranks 33rd out of 50 states in the percentage of low-income children who eat a school breakfast every day. The report estimates that nearly 159,000 low-income students in the Commonwealth do not have access to a nutritious morning meal at school.
To address this problem, House Bill 4218 requires public schools to provide a school breakfast after the beginning of the instructional day, beginning with the 2022-2023 academic year, if at least 60% of the students attending the school are eligible for free or reduced-price meals under the federal National School Lunch Program. Schools will have the flexibility to choose which breakfast service model best suits their students’ needs, including breakfast in the classroom, grab and go breakfast served from mobile carts or kiosks located in the school, or a second chance breakfast offered during breaks between classes.
“This legislation will help our young people be better students by providing them with the meal they need to start their day and be better learners,” said Representative Haggerty. “Sadly, we all know that hunger continues to be a real problem in many of our communities and this approach will provide the help our kids need and deserve.”
House Bill 4218 directs the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to develop guidelines and regulations to assist schools with implementing breakfast after the bell. DESE must also conduct an initial assessment of all schools required to offer breakfast after the bell by December 31, 2021.
The bill contains provisions allowing schools to obtain a one-year waiver from the breakfast after the bell requirement if they already have a breakfast participation rate of 80% or higher, or if the school demonstrates an extreme hardship related to implementation.