Inslee signs bill allowing hungry students to get 'Breakfast After the Bell'

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A new bill provides meals to students in high-poverty schools after the first bell, instead of before it - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • A new bill provides meals to students in high-poverty schools after the first bell, instead of before it

Students in high-poverty schools will be offered breakfast during class time starting in 2019, thanks to a bill signed by Gov. Jay Inslee today.

The bill, commonly referred to as the "Breakfast after the Bell" bill, would expand a popular program that feeds students from low-income families nutritious meals in the morning. It's designed to make it easier for students on free or reduced lunch to access meals, which they may miss if it is served before school starts.

Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, says it's a bill he's "really excited" about.

"It means a lot of our kids on free and reduced lunch will have the opportunity to be ensured they'll get food after the bell," Riccelli says.

Studies have shown that students learn better when they're not hungry and that providing low-income students meals after the bell rings, rather than before school begins, is more effective. Highline Public Schools, in King County, started a similar program in 2013-14, and participation rates in the meals more than doubled.

At the start of the 2019-2020, students in schools that have at least 70 percent of kids who qualify for free or reduced lunch will be offered a breakfast after the bell program. Rogers High School, for example, would qualify for the program based on its rate of 78 percent of students on free or reduced lunch in the 2016-17 school year.

Under the new bill, sponsored by Rep. Monica Stonier, D-Vancouver, breakfast after the bell can count as instructional time as long as students are engaged in educational activities during the breakfast and it doesn't disrupt the classroom. The food provided must meet federal nutritional standards, and preference will be given to food grown in Washington.

"When hungry kids are focused on where their next meal is coming from, they aren't focused on learning," Stonier has said in a statement. "As a lifelong educator who works with public school students every day, it's amazing to see how a snack and a piece of fruit can transform a child's day."