Successful efforts in states and school districts across the country show the impact of laws and policies that change the way schools serve breakfast. These changes ensure that all children start the day with a healthy meal that prepares them for learning.

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Overview of Breakfast Policy Options
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Through state legislation or district policy changes, states and localities have taken a variety of steps to increase participation in school breakfast.

States and school districts have worked to expand access to breakfast through the following types of policy changes:

  • Requiring Breakfast After the Bell models, such as Breakfast in the Classroom.
  • Providing universally-free breakfast.
  • Providing funding for start-up/expansion costs related to changing breakfast models.
  • Providing an additional per-meal reimbursement.
  • Requiring schools to offer breakfast.
  • Eliminating the reduced-price category for meal reimbursement.

Effective Policies for Increasing Participation in School Breakfast Programs outlines the policy changes that states and districts can enact to increase school breakfast participation. It also describes common obstacles to these policy changes, such as lack of support from key decision makers, and strategies to overcome these obstacles. 

2017-2018 State-Level Policy and Legislative Trends outlines major legislative and policy initiatives introduced across states in their respective annual legislative sessions. This resource focuses on three federal nutrition assistance programs and major legislative trends introduced: School Breakfast Program (SBP), Summer Food Service Program(SFSP), and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

How School Meals Reach Kids explains how the School Breakfast Program works and illustrates how maximizing participation in the program can bring more federal funding to your state or municipality.

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Requiring Breakfast After the Bell
A woman and a man discussing breakfast legislation in a capital building

The quickest, most effective way to increase participation in breakfast is to pass state legislation or school district policy requiring schools to serve Breakfast After the Bell.

States and school districts across the countryrecognizing the importance of giving every child access to school breakfasthave passed laws requiring schools to make breakfast available after the bell has rung. Breakfast Policy Solutions provides a snapshot of key Breakfast After the Bell policies and legislation across the country and the impact they have had on participation.

Breakfast After the Bell State Legislation

Six states have passed legislation requiring Breakfast After the Bell and have seen hugely positive impacts on participation, academic achievement and school meal program finances: Colorado, DC, Illinois, Nevada, New Mexico and West Virginia. Based on lessons learned, Sample State Legislation: Breakfast After the Bell provides recommendations and considerations for drafting a Breakfast After the Bell requirement law based on the experiences of the states that have successfully passed this type of legislation.

Nevada Breakfast After the Bell Legislation: Case Study Profile highlights the implementation and impact of the Breakfast After the Bell law in Nevada, including a significant increase in the number of students participating in school breakfast and a high return on the state’s financial investment. It also highlights crucial lessons learned for other states that are considering passing a Breakfast After the Bell law. 

A Tale of Two Bills Nevada's Breakfast After the Bell- A  Legislative Case Study describes how Nevada's Breakfast After the Bell law was passed, highlighting the important organizations and influencers that helped to secure its passage. It also provides advice and lessons learned for advocates that can help shape their own strategies to get Breakfast After the Bell legislation passed in their own states.

Pending Legislation: Breakfast After the Bell Requirements

States actively pursuing Breakfast After the Bell Requirement legislation

State Year Category Status Summary
Massachusetts 2017 Requirement H 327 was introduced on January 23rd, 2017. Requires that breakfast be served after the bell in schools with at least 60% free and reduced price (FRP) eligibility.

 

Passed Legislation: Breakfast After the Bell Requirements

States that have successfully passed Breakfast After the Bell Requirement legislation

State Year Summary
Colorado 2013 Requires Colorado schools with 80% or more students qualifying for free or reduced-price meals to offer Breakfast After the Bell to all students at no cost, access beginning in the 2014-15 school year. In the 2015-16 school year, schools with 70% or more qualifying students would have to comply. Schools that meet the CO Department of Education's definition of "small, rural school district" (1,000 students or less) will be exempt. Additional information can be found on Hunger Free Colorado’s website.
Delaware 2016 Requires all public and charter schools that participate in the Community Eligibility Provision to implement a Breakfast After the Bell model beginning in the 2017-2018 school year.
District of Columbia 2010 Requires that elementary schools with over 40% of students qualifying for free or reduced-price meals serve Breakfast in the Classroom while middle or high schools that meet this threshold must offer any innovative breakfast service model, such as Breakfast in the Classroom or Grab N’ Go. The Healthy Schools Act also removes the reduced-price co-payment. Additionally, the bill authorizes almost $4 million in annual funding to schools to implement the requirements of the legislation. In the 2010-11 school year, the bill provided $7 per student to schools for costs associated with starting an innovative school breakfast service model.
Illinois 2016 Requires that Breakfast After the Bell be served in schools with at least 70% free and reduced-price (FRP) eligibility starting in school year 2017-2018.
Nevada 2015 Requires Breakfast After the Bell in schools with at least 70% free and reduced price eligibility. Provides $2 million over two years in the form of start-up grants to assist with the implementation of Breakfast After the Bell.
New Mexico 2014 Builds on previous Breakfast After the Bell legislation by expanding the requirement from elementary schools to all K-12 schools that have at least 85% of their students eligible for free or reduced-price meals.
New Jersey 2018

Requires that Breakfast After the Bell program be established in every public school where 70% or more of the students enrolled in the school were eligible for free or reduced-price meals under the National School Lunch Program or the School Breakfast Program on or before the last school day [before October 16] of the preceding school year. The law grants waivers to schools if 70 percent of eligible students in their schools received a meal under the School Breakfast Program in the preceding school year.  Within six months after the effective date of the law, each school district is also required to submit Breakfast After the Bell Implementation plan to the Department of Agriculture. The bill also requests the Department of Agriculture to publish the list of available resources for school districts that are required to implement the Breakfast After the Bell program. The law takes effect in the school year 2019-2020.

New York 2018 Requires that beginning the school year 2018-2019 all public elementary or secondary schools in New York with at least 70% or more of its students that are eligible for free and reduced-price meals shall offer to all students Breakfast After the Bell. The law considers the time spent by students consuming breakfast as part of the instructional time if students are engaged in instructional activity while concurrently consuming breakfast. The law also provides $7 million in state funds for schools required to implement Breakfast After the Bell program to support implementation of the program such as for equipment purchases, additional staff costs, or staff training.
Washington State 2018

Requires that beginning the school year 2019-2020, each public school in Washington State shall provide Breakfast After the Bell if a school has 70% or more of its students that are eligible for free or reduced-price meals in the prior school year. The law also provides a total one-time start-up grants of $1.2 million to schools implementing a Breakfast After the Bell program to be used for the costs associated with launching a Breakfast After the Bell program such as equipment purchases, training, additional staff costs, and janitorial services. The law considers the period of time spent by students consuming breakfast as part of the instructional time if students are engaged in educational activity while concurrently consuming breakfast.  

West Virginia 2013

Increases school breakfast program participation by requiring innovative breakfast delivery models and creating local sources of funding for child nutrition programs.

 

School District Breakfast After the Bell Policies

School districts across the country have recognized the importance of breakfast, requiring all schools in their district to implement a Breakfast after the Bell model; most commonly requiring specific implementation of Breakfast in the Classroom (BIC.) These districts include Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston and New York City. Working with school districts to require Breakfast After the Bell in all schools can be an effective tactic when statewide legislation is not an option. 

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Supplemental Funding for Breakfast After the Bell
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Although state laws requiring Breakfast After the Bell have had compelling impacts, some states have had success increasing breakfast participation by providing additional funding to support schools that choose to implement Breakfast After the Bell.

Providing financial incentives to schools to implement Breakfast After the Bell is another effective advocacy tactic that states like Arkansas, Maryland and Virginia have taken. This type of model provides an additional per meal state funded reimbursement to schools that implement Breakfast After the Bell to encourage schools to adopt these models. 

Passed Legislation: Supplemental Funding for Breakfast After the Bell

State Year Summary
Arkansas 2013 Authorizes the two-year pilot program, Arkansas Meals for Achievement, and provides $490,000 in State funding to provide grants to schools to implement alternative breakfast models.
California  2016 Authorizes $2,000,000 in state grant funds for school food authorities (SFA) that wants to start-up or expand the Breakfast After the Bell service models in schools that have at least 60 percent of enrolled students approved for free and reduced-price meals.This grant is available for school years 2017-18 and 2018-19.
Maryland 2017 The Maryland Meals for Achievement program has existed since 1998; providing selected elementary schools with 40% free or reduced-price eligible students state funding to provide Breakfast in the Classroom. In July 2017, the law was changed to allow secondary schools to be eligible for the program and allowing Grab and Go as a model option for these schools. 
Pennsylvania  2018 Authorizes $900,000 in state grants for school breakfast expansion across the state in the school year 2018-19. This state grant is intended to help schools establish a new School Breakfast Program using Breakfast After the Bell models such as Grab and Go and Breakfast in the Classroom, or to assist schools that wants to expand the reach of an existing School Breakfast Program to low-income students through Breakfast After the Bell program.
Tennessee 2018 Authorizes $500,000 in state grants to the Department of Education to increase participation in the School Breakfast Program through Breakfast After the Bell program.
Virginia 2015 Governor McAuliffe’s Breakfast Amendment in the 2015-2016 budget includes a $537,000 ‘Breakfast after the Bell’ (BAB) Amendment that will provide schools with an additional $0.05 per breakfast served when using alternative breakfast models.

 

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Instructional Time Clarifications
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Instructional time policy clarifications have been necessary in some states to alleviate educator concerns about the negative impact of Breakfast in the Classroom on instructional time.

Breakfast in the Classroom is the most effective Breakfast After the Bell model at increasing participation in school breakfast. However, one of the biggest challenges to getting schools to implement Breakfast in the Classroom (BIC) is concern from teachers and principals about its impact on instructional time. Memos issued by state superintendents and laws passed by state legislatures have played important roles in supporting BIC efforts by clarifying that time spent eating breakfast in the classroom counts towards instructional time if accompanied by other education-related activities such as taking attendance, reading and collecting homework assignments. Instructional time memos have been passed in California, Colorado, Indiana, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Instructional time state legislation has been passed in Oregon.

The Breakfast Instructional Time Samples resource provides links to the language of these instructional time memos and also provides sample language for issuing an instructional time memo in your state. 

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Community Eligibility and Improving Direct Certification
man talking a group of people regarding breakfast legislation

State legislation can address concerns that Community Eligibility Provision participation will negatively impact state funding allocations and also help to boost direct certification rates.

One of the common barriers to Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) implementation is concerns about losing access to state funding. Many state education and other supportive funding is allocated based on free and reduced-price eligibility rates. Since CEP schools no longer collect free or reduced-price applications, concerns about losing access to this funding have deterred some schools from participating. States such as Maryland have passed legislation clarifying how these state funding formulas can be modified to account for the student populations in CEP schools and allow them to continue to receive these funds. 

Another barrier to CEP participation is schools not qualifying due to low direct certification rates. Increasing the number of directly certified students allows more schools to qualify for CEP and minimizes the number of children that are required to complete applications to receive free school meals. California passed a law in 2017 to develop and implement a process to use Medicaid participation data to directly certify qualifying children for free school meals.  

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Other Breakfast Policy Options
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State legislative and policy changes don't need to be limited to major Breakfast After the Bell initiatives—they can also be used to generate political support for breakfast, build breakfast coalitions and provide better access to data.

Not everyone has the political support needed to pass state legislation to require or fund Breakfast After the Bell. However, state policy levers can still be used to make changes to support breakfast expansion efforts. Do you need a formal mechanism to form a coalition to build support for a future Breakfast After the Bell legislation? Would having better access to data help you to understand the need and ways to address low breakfast participation in your state? All of these can be addressed by passing state legislation.

Passed Legislation: Other Breakfast Policies

State Year Summary
Arkansas 2017 Commissions a study to evaluate the need for school-level nutrition data, the impact of providing Breakfast After the Bell, and the impact of CEP and other models on school breakfast participation.
Illinois 2015 Encourages schools to utilize Breakfast After the Bell models and encourages the Illinois Commission to End Hunger to provide a report showing the potential impact of Breakfast After the Bell models on high need schools.
Maine 2014 Establishes the Task Force to End Child Hunger in Maine.
New Jersey 2014 Promotes the adoption of Breakfast After the Bell models and requires the state to track breakfast participation at the school level as well as the manner in which breakfast is served.

Breakfast Resolutions

A Breakfast Resolution can be an effective way to highlight the need for school breakfast expansion in the state, establish a record of who supports school breakfast expansion and identify legislators who champion breakfast. It can be a useful first step towards future Breakfast After the Bell advocacy efforts. Language can also be included to create a breakfast coalition or provide access to data. The Sample State Legislation: Breakfast Resolutions resource provides example language and options for constructing a Breakfast Resolution. 

Sample Legislative Language on Access to School-Level Breakfast Data provides example languages on types of school-level breakfast data policy-makers, educators and other crucial stakeholders needs to have to make data-driven and evidence-based decision in their strive to increase school breakfast participation in their schools and school districts while improving accountability and transparency in school-level breakfast participation rates.

State legislation is not the only option for establishing breakfast support. Education leaders at the federal and state levels can also take action to pass policy memos expressing the importance of breakfast and demonstrating support for Breakfast After the Bell. When education leaders actively encourage schools to implement Breakfast After the Bell models, it sends a strong message to schools about the importance of school breakfast expansion. Examples include Secretary Duncan's Breakfast After the Bell Memo and New Jersey's Breakfast After the Bell Memo.

 

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