Surrounded by Albert H. Jones Elementary School fifth graders who had just received a healthy breakfast, Governor Jack Markell signed legislation this morning that will ensure that Delaware schoolchildren receive breakfast each morning.
While schools typically serve breakfast before school starts, many students may miss this opportunity to eat breakfast for a variety of reasons, such as tight morning arrival times and the social stigma attached to the traditional school breakfast program. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, as many as 12 percent of school-aged children skip breakfast.
“Ensuring all students have access to a nutritional meal to start their day is vital not only for their general health, but has also shown to improve attendance and academic progress,” said Governor Markell. I’m pleased with Delaware’s recent recognition as one of the states with the fastest growth in school breakfast participation and hope this legislation will help us build on that progress.”
Sponsored by Rep. Ed Osienski, the “Breakfast After the Bell” law will require that public and charter schools participating in the Community Eligibility Provision adopt proven “alternative service models” to provide breakfast to children at no cost. The program will take effect beginning with the 2017-18 school year, though some schools, such as Jones Elementary, already offer the service.
“Breakfast may be available in every Delaware school, but we know that many kids who need that healthy meal to start the day still aren’t getting it – and we’re not just talking about students from needy families,” said Rep. Osienski. “We’ve seen how successful school breakfast programs can be when schools and policymakers think outside the box, and we want that success in our state. Thanks to this new law, we will see that progress continue in our schools.”
Alternatives to the traditional school breakfast service include “Breakfast in the Classroom” and “Second Chance Breakfast,” which give students the opportunity to obtain breakfast for a period of time after school starts, and “Grab and Go Breakfast,” in which breakfast items are made available at carts or kiosks in other areas of the school apart from the cafeteria.
“We know student academic performance is tied to a number of factors outside the classroom, including the energy levels and attentiveness that come with being properly nourished,” said Sen. Bryan Townsend, D-Newark, prime Senate sponsor of House Bill 408. “Increasing the breakfast options for students who qualify is a common-sense and important step to helping kids prepare to learn at the outset of each school day.”
Schools across the country have demonstrated the effectiveness of alternative school breakfast service. The Los Angeles Unified School District saw participation rates rise by 89 percent a year after implementing “Breakfast in the Classroom” in most of its schools. LA schools with alternative breakfast service saw better attendance rates than schools with traditional breakfast programs.
HB 408 has the support of the Food Bank of Delaware, the Delaware State Education Association and the state Department of Education.
“The Food Bank of Delaware was proud to support House Bill 408 and even more proud to see it signed today,” said Patricia Beebe, Food Bank President and CEO. “This bill creates an amazing opportunity for more children to receive breakfast through an alternative service model. We know the results of serving breakfast through these models mean that more children will get the nutrition they need to start their day and do better in school.”