The effective “Breakfast After the Bell” model for school breakfast programs will expand to more than 175,000 additional children in Illinois thanks to a bill that was signed into law today. SB 2393 unanimously passed the Illinois House and Senate this spring.
With one in five children in Illinois at risk of hunger, there is a substantial need for school breakfast. Children who eat breakfast are better able to learn and focus. The state currently ranks 42nd out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia in providing breakfast to children at school.
Thanks to the new law, breakfast will be an official part of the school day in low-income schools, guaranteeing that every student has access to the healthy food they need to learn. Incorporating breakfast into the school day removes barriers that children face, such as transportation challenges and the stigma associated with receiving free and reduced-price meals. The new requirement takes effect on January 1, 2017.
“Illinois children have such incredible potential, but hunger stifles that potential. In order to grow up healthy and excel in the classroom, children need to eat breakfast,” said Kate Maehr, co-chair of the Illinois Commission to End Hunger and CEO of the Greater Chicago Food Depository. “This new law makes breakfast accessible to more kids in our state and provides them the nourishment they need to succeed.”
Starting the day with a nutritious breakfast makes a measurable impact on children’s ability to learn: for example, kids who eat breakfast score 17% higher on standardized math tests, according to research from Feeding America.
“Monday mornings can be hard for some children, especially if they start the day hungry after a weekend of inconsistent food sources. This new legislation will go a long way in providing a nourishing breakfast for the children of Illinois,” said Tom Browning, co-chair of the Illinois No Kid Hungry Working Group and Director, Childhood Nutrition & Wellness at Illinois Action for Children.
A statewide coalition of organizations advocated for the Breakfast After the Bell legislation, including Bread for the World, COFI, Catholic Charities, Central Illinois Foodbank, Eastern Illinois Foodbank, EverThrive Illinois, Feeding America, Feeding Illinois, the Greater Chicago Food Depository, Heartland Alliance, Hope Response Coalition, Illinois Action for Children, Illinois Hunger Coalition, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Illinois Migrant Council, Illinois Public Health Institute, Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry Campaign, Northern Illinois Food Bank, the Ounce of Prevention, River Bend Foodbank, Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, St. Louis Area Foodbank , Tri-State Food Bank, Voices for Illinois Children and the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago.