Projects > Sustainability and Equity in the Massachusetts Food System: A Progress Report

Greater Boston Food Bank

Coalition-building for breakfast access for kids

The Greater Boston Food Bank is leading the Rise and Shine Massachusetts coalition to enact legislation to require that schools in high-poverty areas serve breakfast after the school day starts, thereby enabling more children to access the meals. This is particularly important for low-income kids, who may otherwise start the school day on an empty stomach.

Currently, every school in Massachusetts must offer breakfast; where and when they provide the meal is up to each school. When schools serve meals before the bell—or whatever signals the beginning of the formal school day, fewer students arrive in time to take advantage of the meals. As a result, fewer students are being fed, and schools are missing out on the federal reimbursements for serving the meals. The DC-based Food Research and Action Center’s 2017 breakfast scorecard ranked Massachusetts 39th in the nation for breakfast participation.

The Rise and Shine Massachusetts Coalition has brought a diverse group of supporters together to work to increase breakfast participation. “This would never have happened if there wasn’t already great work happening on the ground,” said Catherine Drennan, Public Affairs Manager at The Greater Boston Food Bank, “including work by the Child Nutrition Outreach Program at Project Bread, research and funding from the EOS Foundation, and support from the New England Dairy Council.” The coalition has looked to other states that have enacted similar legislation.

“An Act Regarding Breakfast After the Bell,” legislation introduced by Sen. Sal DiDomenico and Rep. Aaron Vega, aims to increase access to breakfast for students. The bills would require that schools serving 60 percent or more low-in- come students offer breakfast after the academic school day has started. Coalition members spoke at the hearing on the bills and invited lawmakers to see successful breakfast programs in action. If the legislation is enacted, the coalition estimates that it will allow an additional 150,000 students to participate in the school breakfast program.

Food Access, Security, and Health - Action 4.3.3: Support more schools and school districts in implementing programming that serves breakfast in the classroom. Support increased awareness of Massachusetts DESE guidance to school districts that breakfast is counted as “time on learning.”