State Legislators – Champions of Breakfast at School
August 2014 | Vol. 1, No. 6
As the school year gets underway across the country, it’s a fine time to note that legislators in a number of states have made it possible for pupils to start the day with a healthy breakfast.
Not only a means to nourish students, school breakfast has been shown to increase students’ academic achievement, reduce tardiness and absence, be associated with lower body mass index, and create an improved sense of community in schools (see also, research cited in the AASA & CDC publications at the links below).
Recent state school breakfast legislation aims to make breakfast available to more students. West Virginia’s Feed to Achieve Act, WV Senate Bill 663, became law with overwhelming bipartisan legislative support in 2013, providing children in the state, including those in high poverty areas, with greater opportunities for healthy school meals at both breakfast and lunch for the 2013-2014 school year. The West Virginia law provides for expanding school breakfast and lunch programs with both public and private support, for purchasing more locally grown foods for schools and for supporting school and community gardens. Colorado’s Breakfast After the Bell program, enacted in 2013 in CO House Bill 1006, goes into effect in the 2014-2015 school year and requires schools with 80 percent or more of students eligible for free or reduced price school lunch to serve a nutritious breakfast at no cost to students after the first bell; for the 2015-2016 school year, schools with 70 percent or greater eligible students must provide breakfast at no cost to students. New Mexico expanded its Breakfast After the Bell program in 2014 through House Bill 271, which requires schools with 85 percent or more of students eligible for free or reduced price school lunch to serve a nutritious breakfast at no cost to students through the 12th grade, with funding from the state going first to the neediest schools where 90 percent of students are eligible.
Washington state’s school meals appropriation for 2014 in Senate Bill 6002 specifically provided for “assistance to school districts in initiating and expanding school breakfast programs.” In Delaware, House Bill 165, enacted in 2013, clarifies that beginning in the 2014-2015 school year, charter schools must provide breakfast and lunch to their students at no or low cost if the child's family qualifies for a no- or low-cost breakfast or lunch through the federal national school breakfast or lunch program, and that charter schools may not consider whether a child would qualify for no- or low-cost breakfast or lunch when making enrollment decisions.
At the federal level, a new Community Eligibility provision encourages universal breakfast service for eligible schools. Enacted as part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) of 2010, community eligibility becomes available nationwide for the 2014-2015 school year and has increased participation in the School Breakfast Program in schools where it has been implemented. The U.S. Department of Agriculture provides a Community Eligibility Estimator Tool to help local school districts determine if community eligibility is an economically viable option.