Breakfast After the Bell

Breakfast After the Bell - Setup CO Kids for Success


Success in the classroom begins with a nutritious breakfast. The Breakfast After the Bell Nutrition Program is a responsible and cost-effective way to set up Colorado’s children for academic success while staying healthy.

Breakfast is critical to learning and health, and about one in five Colorado kids don’t know when or where they will get their next meal outside of school. 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. They are more likely to exhibit behavioral, emotional and academic problems. Simply put, hungry kids cannot learn.

Breakfast After the Bell provides Colorado students with access to a nutritious breakfast after the school day begins, helping fuel their bodies and minds, so they are prepared to learn. Many school districts and schools across Colorado have implemented the program in select or all elementary, middle and high schools with great success. Schools can choose how they serve breakfast after the school day begins—whether in the classroom, via a grab-and-go cart or through another serving method after the first bell.

A small contingency attempted to roll back the law in 2015, with House Bill 1080 that aimed to eliminate the second phase of the Breakfast After the Bell and greatly reduce the number of students who could benefit from accessing a breakfast after the school day begins. Hunger Free Colorado, along with many other nonprofit, education, health and agriculture organizations, opposed HB15-1080. The bill was postponed indefinitely by the House Education Committee, with a 6-5 vote, on Feb. 2, 2015.

We’re excited to report that Colorado is now ranked 11th in the nation for school breakfast participation among low-income students. This is a great step forward from ranking 44th in 2009, when Hunger Free Colorado was founded.

By expanding Breakfast After the Bell into more Colorado schools, our state can ensure that 72,000 additional students will gain access to a healthy breakfast after the start of the school day in the future.

Learn why offering breakfast after the school day begins is needed, what the law does and how it works, and the many benefits for children, schools, school districts, and our communities. Also, find out what supporters say about Breakfast After the Bell, and read success stories on our blog.


 Why is Breakfast After the Bell needed?


  • Breakfast in the ClassroomBreakfast is critical to learning and health, yet many children start the school day hungry. Those experiencing hunger are more likely to exhibit behavioral, emotional and academic problems.
  • About 1 in 5 Colorado kids struggle with hunger, not knowing when or where they will get their next meal outside of school.
  • Breakfast programs are more effective when breakfast is offered to all students at no cost after the start of the school day.
  • Through the program Colorado’s low-income students receive adequate nutrition in the morning and increase consumption of high-nutrient foods; thus, fueling their bodies and minds, so they are prepared to learn.
  • Student participation in school breakfast is associated with improved math grades, attendance and punctuality, as well as reduced depression, anxiety and hyperactivity.
  • Teachers, doctors and parents agree that hungry children lack focus and have difficulty performing well in school.
  • Missed 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.
  • Rolling back Breakfast After the Bell would impact an estimated 72,459 Colorado students, putting their academic performance, health and overall well-being at greater risk. (This is based upon our calculations using the most recent data from the Colorado Department of Education.)


What is Breakfast After the Bell?


The Breakfast After the Bell Nutrition Program, House Bill 2013-1006, garnered widespread support under the dome and in the community, and became law in May 2013. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Dominick Moreno of Commerce City, former Rep. Tony Exum of Colorado Springs, and former Sen. Angela Giron of Pueblo, was widely seen as a cost-effective way to address child hunger in Colorado. (Read the news release and view photos from the bill signing ceremony.)

Beginning school year 2014-15 it required schools, with 80 percent or more of the student body eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, to offer breakfast to all students after the school day begins. Schools with 70 percent or more qualifying students must follow suit during school year 2015-16. All schools that meet the Colorado Department of Education’s definition of “small, rural school district” (1,000 students or less) will be exempt. These thresholds and tier structure ensure that the federal/state reimbursement covers all costs for schools and districts.

Breakfast After the Bell is part of the and the School Breakfast Program, which a federally-funded program that provides children with breakfast at school. It’s 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  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.


Why does Breakfast After the Bell work? What are the benefits?


  • More Colorado student access a nutritious breakfast after the school day begins, and Colorado schools report reduced tardiness, fewer nurse visits and improvements in student behavior and attentiveness.
  • Under the current 80 percent free and reduced price lunch threshold, 103,482 Colorado students are offered breakfast after the school day begins.
  • There are several Colorado schools at or below the 70 percent threshold already implementing successful Breakfast After the Bell programs in urban and rural areas., including in school districts like Calhan, Pueblo County and St. Vrain Valley.
  • By requiring only those schools at or above the 70 percent threshold, Colorado is ensuring that the federal/state reimbursement can cover the breakfast costs for schools and districts.
  • Implementation has been successful for many schools and districts, with support from teachers, principals and parents. For example, a survey of Denver Public School teachers reported that two-thirds (64.7 percent) believe Breakfast in the Classroom improves student attention and concentration, and more than half (54.6 percent) believe it improves student academic outcomes.
  • The programs provides complete flexibility to schools, allowing them to choose one of many delivery options that works best for their school.
  • Teachers can use the time for instructional work, including roll call, homework collection and other tasks.
  • There are funding options for impacted schools. Organizations have awarded more than $1.3 million to implement Breakfast After the Bell, with more than $3.75 million still available to Colorado schools.


What supporters say about Breakfast After the Bell:


Breakfast in the Classroom

“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 in Colorado

“Eating healthy meals at school is very critical. I have a better attitude and focus more with Breakfast in the Classroom.” – High school 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 in 2013, encouraging Colorado educators to fight hunger with breakfast.