We often hear that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, particularly for children. Yet, many kids in Colorado arrive at school with a rumbling belly, and students who don’t eat breakfast are not prepared to succeed in school. Breakfast is critical to learning and health, and those experiencing hunger—estimated to be 22% of all children in Colorado—are more likely to exhibit behavioral, emotional and academic problems. Simply put, hungry kids cannot learn.
Breakfast is the number-one needed school supply for our students to succeed, and school breakfast can make such a difference for students of all ages who may not when and where they’ll get their next meal. With Breakfast After the Bell, we can increase the availability and accessibility of school breakfast by expanding innovative breakfast-serving models like Breakfast in the Classroom and Grab and Go breakfast carts into more Colorado schools.
Learn why after-the-bell breakfast nutrition programs are needed, what this law will do, how it works and the many benefits for children, schools, districts, and school food and nutrition programs. Find out what supporters are saying about after-the-bell breakfast programs.
Gov. Hickenlooper signs ‘Breakfast After the Bell’ on May 15
Gov. John Hickenlooper joined elementary students, school officials and other supporters on May 15 to sign the Breakfast After the Bell Nutrition Program at Rose Hill Elementary in Commerce City, Colo. The new law will require more than 360 Colorado schools to offer breakfast after the bell to all students, giving more than 80,000 additional children access to a daily breakfast. Read the news release, view photos from the bill signing ceremony and see recent news coverage.
In Colorado, one in five children struggle with hunger and, for some, meals served in school may be the only food they regularly eat. The Breakfast After the Bell Nutrition Program addresses child hunger by requiring schools to serve a nutritious after-the-bell breakfast, beginning in school year 2014-15, if 80 percent or more of the student body is eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. In the 2015-16 school year, schools with 70 percent or more qualifying students will have to follow suit.
The legislation, sponsored by Reps. Dominick Moreno of Commerce City and Tony Exum of Colorado Springs, and Sen. Angela Giron, D-Pueblo, is a cost-effective way to address child hunger in Colorado. Because the federal government will reimburse schools for the cost of the program, Breakfast After the Bell could bring an estimated $22.9 million in additional revenue into the state. The legislation also allows schools to choose how they serve breakfast—whether in the classroom, via grab-and-go or through another serving method after first period.
- The number of children living in food-insecure households has grown to 270,000 kids—or 22% of all children in Colorado. This number has increased 86% since 2002.
- Breakfast programs are more effective when breakfast is served free to all students and increases consumption of the high-nutrient foods.
- Colorado’s low-income children will receive adequate nutrition in the morning and be setup to succeed during the school day.
- It will provide daily breakfast to an additional 82,682 children in 364 Colorado schools.
- After-the-bell breakfast nutrition programs are a national, bipartisan priority and the School Breakfast Program is a federally-funded program that provides children with breakfast at school.
- Expanding the program to low-income schools would bring an estimated $22.9 million in new federal funding into the state which is spent locally with Colorado farmers and businesses.
- Beginning in the 2014-15 school year, it will require schools with 80 percent or more free and reduced-price eligible students, to implement an after-the-bell school breakfast program. In the 2015-16 school year, schools with 70 percent or more qualifying students would have to comply. These thresholds and tier structure ensure that the federal/state reimbursement covers all costs for schools and districts.
- All schools that meet the Colorado Department of Education’s definition of “small, rural school district” (1,000 students or less) will be exempt.
- It will give schools complete flexibility to choose one of many delivery options that works best for their school.
Read the bill in its entirety.
Many school districts and schools across Colorado have implemented a breakfast after-the-bell nutrition program in selected or all elementary, middle and high schools with great success. Breakfast after-the-bell is intended to allow schools and school districts to design a breakfast serving model that fits the needs of the students, staff and school. The meals are easy to serve and designed to make little or no mess and minimal disposal. Typical breakfast after-the-bell options include:
- Breakfast in the Classroom: Food is delivered (by staff, students or volunteers) to each classroom after school begins and students are permitted to eat breakfast in the classroom.
- Grab and Go: Students pick-up bagged or boxed breakfast from carts or specified areas and are permitted to eat in either designated areas or the classroom.
- Breakfast After First: An extended passing or breakfast period is offered in the cafeteria, following the first or second period of the day.
- Other options include serving breakfast during an early recess or outdoor lesson. As long as breakfast is offered to all students after the instructional day has begun, schools and districts have great flexibility in serving breakfast after-the-bell.
No extended minutes to the school day are needed to implement most breakfast after-the-bell options. Colorado legislation (CRS. § 22-32-109) permits breakfast in a classroom to count for teacher-student contact time (instructional minutes) and most breakfast after-the-bell programs start and finish within 10 minutes—usually while the teacher is making announcements, collecting homework or taking attendance.
Prepares children to learn and improves academic performance
- Students that increase participation in breakfast programs show greater improvements in math scores, attendance and punctuality as well as reduced depression, anxiety and hyperactivity.
- Behavioral, emotional and academic problems are more prevalent among children experiencing hunger.
- If the legislation has the estimated impact, more than 82,000 additional children would receive breakfast every day. A recent analysis of third party studies and public data conducted by Deloitte indicates that in schools with a Breakfast in the Classroom program in Colorado, the potential impact could be as much as: 60,438 fewer absences; 40,292 students achieving higher math test scores; and 10,073 more high school graduates.
Improves children’s health
- Skipping breakfast is associated with a number of poor health outcomes and health compromising behaviors, including higher blood cholesterol and insulin levels, physical inactivity, disordered eating and unhealthy weight management practices.
- Students in schools that offer free breakfast to all students are more likely to consume a nutritionally substantive breakfast.
- Approximately 24% of Colorado children are overweight or obese, raising their risk for many other health problems. Food-insecure children are 1.4 times more likely to be obese than children who were not food insecure.
- New federal nutritional standards for school breakfasts—based on scientific evidence and using nutritional guidelines to ensure children’s health and development—will fully be in place by the 2014-15 school year.
Help generate significant revenue for struggling school food and nutrition programs
- School breakfast has long been a bipartisan, national priority, and schools that implement a breakfast after-the-bell program will generate additional revenue through federal and state reimbursements to cover program costs and further reinvest in their food and nutrition program.
- Expanding the program to low-income schools would bring an estimated $22.9 million in new federal funding into the state, which is spent locally with Colorado farmers and businesses.
- The Breakfast After-the-Bell School Nutrition Program under this bill will generate up to $4,307,968 in revenue to school food and nutrition programs statewide.
- As school breakfast participation increases under this bill, the state funding requirements under the current Colorado Smart Start Nutrition Program (CRS 22-82.7-103)—which provides a 30-cent co-payment for school breakfasts—will increase by approximately $380,000 annually; a small price to pay for the additional federal revenue generated for schools and the positive impact on children’s health and academic performance.
“Before with cafeteria breakfast, I really think it was more stigmatized. Kids had to run up to the third floor to get breakfast, and everyone knew it was for kids who needed it free. Now in the classroom, kids are more focused.” – Lindsay, third through fifth-grade teacher
“Eating healthy meals at school is very critical. I have a better attitude and focus more with Breakfast in the Classroom.” – Ninth-grade student from West Denver
“We have seen a drop in school nurse visits for lack-of-food concerns and a drop in behavior concerns since implementing Breakfast in the Classroom.” – Health coordinator for elementary school in Englewood
“Our kids love it, and only about five don’t eat since they usually eat at home. One boy, in particular, we know really does need it, and if he misses it, he won’t get any breakfast at all.” – Jamie, first-grade teacher
“Going to school without food and trying to learn is very challenging. Food fuels learning.” – High school student from Denver
“A nutritious breakfast for children provides a better start to the day; a better start to life.” – Dr. Sarah Vanscoy, pediatrician
U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan wrote an open letter, encouraging Colorado educators to fight hunger with breakfast.