HB16-1463 Aimed to Support Well-being of Kids & Schools
Hunger Free Colorado strongly advocated and supported the passage of the “Breakfast After the Bell Nutrition Program” in 2013, to ensure more Colorado kids have access to breakfast after the school day begins. We continue to celebrate the success in Colorado, especially how our state moved from 44th to 11th in the nation for school breakfast participation in the span of a few years.
But, for a program to be a sustaining success, it needs to work for all involved, including those tasked with preparing healthy food for our school children each day—the food & nutrition service teams for Colorado schools.
Due to financial concerns about the long-term sustainability of the program raised by Colorado school nutrition directors, there was an attempt to roll back the Breakfast After the Bell Nutrition Program during in 2015. In exchange for killing that bill, Rep. Moreno (D-Commerce City), who sponsored the original legislation, promised the House Education Committee that he would find a compromise for the 2016 state legislation session. He asked us for help in fulfilling this promise, and we believe that House Bill 16-1463 was the best possible compromise under the circumstances.
HB 16-1463 proposed some flexibility for Colorado school districts and schools under Breakfast After the Bell, without harming Colorado kids. Public schools obliged to provide Breakfast After the Bell would continue to offer breakfast at no cost to students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals but would have the option to charge those who, in the past, have paid for breakfast—in a way that does not distinguish the students.
Hunger Free Colorado supported this modification for a few reasons:
- This bill created an option, not a mandate. There was some interest in the option among school districts, but it was far from widespread.
- There are school districts in Colorado already implementing this model with great success, in terms of student participation, financial viability and community support. These schools, which are in low-income, rural communities, have integrated healthy breakfast into the school day, and there is high participation by all students, whether they qualify for free or reduced-price meals or have to pay. Their success gives us hope that this model can work in other schools across Colorado.
- It was a thoughtful compromise, with a long-term goal of increasing support and participation in Breakfast After the Bell. School nutrition directors, who historically have been the most opposed to Breakfast After the Bell, promised in writing that if this bill passed, they would neither seek nor support any further changes to the program. We strived to move the discussion from what the law ought to be to a focus on how we can successfully integrate Breakfast After the Bell into the school day, as well as build up school and community support across Colorado to maximize school breakfast participation and eliminate any remaining stigma.
- We were confident that low-income students would still have had access to a nutritious breakfast after the school day begins; the fuel needed for their bodies and minds, so they’re prepared to learn.
Though the Bill died in the Senate, with the introduction of HB 16-1463 we discovered how many people and organizations have become stakeholders and champions of Breakfast After the Bell. This program clearly has become integrated into the fabric of our communities.
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. (vew 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 School Breakfast Program, which is 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.
“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
“Going to school without food and trying to learn is very challenging. Food fuels learning.” – High school student from Denver
“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
“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
U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan wrote an open letter in 2013, encouraging Colorado educators to fight hunger with breakfast.