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Learn why we're advocating for Breakfast After the Bell legislation

State Bill SB2209: Give Children a Healthy Start to the School Day


Evidence shows that breakfast makes a tremendous impact on student’s ability to learn. Eating breakfast helps decrease food insecurity, improves academic performance, reduces behavioral problems, and improves children’s diets [i]. Unfortunately, Illinois is ranked 41st among states in school breakfast participation [ii] and analysis shows that the state leaves nearly $100 million in school breakfast benefits on the table due to the low participation [iii].

Far too many families lack the resources to provide breakfast at home. Unfortunately, transportation and scheduling barriers and stigma prevent many students from accessing cafeteria-style breakfasts. Breakfast After the Bell (BAB) models [iv] make school breakfast more flexible, making it easier for students to access the most important meal of the day. Alternative breakfast models, like BAB, increase participation and consumption, and improve diet quality and classroom behavior. Participation increases shown across school types and geographies [v]. And more than two thirds of Illinois teachers surveyed said that BAB resulted in students that are calmer and more focused, with increased performance at school.

In 2016, the General Assembly passed legislation aimed at ensuring that schools with 70% or more students eligible for free or reduced-price meals adopted BAB models. Unfortunately, only 10% of schools were known to have adopted a BAB Program when first implemented in SY2017-18 pre-COVID [vi]. During the pandemic, Illinois schools demonstrated unparalleled innovation and flexibility to connect children with meals, whether providing grab and go meals, breakfast in the classroom, or take-home meals. Many of those flexibilities were rolled back and we don’t have verified data now of which schools have adopted BAB programs.

Motivated by the huge gap in breakfast access and building on the creativity and flexibility schools demonstrated during the pandemic, we have a unique opportunity to help schools transition to more flexible breakfast models for the long-term and improve breakfast participation overall.


SB2209 [vii] will help Illinois increase breakfast participation among low-income students by addressing the barriers of access and cost by doing two main things:

  • Access. The bill provides small grants (up to $7,500) to schools to help them start or expand “Breakfast After the Bell” program models that make it easier for kids to access breakfast and overcome barriers like transportation, timing, and stigma. For example, grab and go breakfast on the way to class or breakfast in the classroom.
  • Cost. The bill would eliminate the reduced-price meal category so that all low-income children statewide have access to free breakfast and lunch. This will impact an estimated 41,000 low-income children [viii] statewide who do not currently adopt the Community Eligibility Provision to provide all meals in the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program for free.

The bill also requires the Illinois State Board of Education to track and report on which schools are operating Breakfast After the Bell programs.

View the most recent factsheet and list of organizations endorsing SB2209.


[i] Benefits of School Breakfast - Food Research & Action Center (

[ii] school-meals-2023.pdf (

[iii] Greater Chicago Food Depository analysis of FRAC’s “The Reach of School Breakfast and Lunch: During the 2021-2022 School Year.”

[iv] Breakfast After the Bell models include Breakfast in the Classroom, Grab and Go, and Second Chance Breakfast

[v] Strategies to Increase Student Participation in School Meals in the United States: A Systematic Review (

[vi] No Kid Hungry, “Illinois Breakfast After the Bell Legislation: Impacts and Lessons Learned.”

[vii] Bill Status of SB2209 (

[viii] Child Nutrition Data Analytics (


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