Vargas Cites Haverhill’s Experience After House Passes ‘Breakfast After the Bell’

Haverhill state Rep. Andy Vargas makes a pitch for his Breakfast After the Bell legislation during the fall of 2019. (Courtesy photograph.)

The Massachusetts House of Representatives yesterday unanimously passed the “Breakfast after the Bell,” co-filed by Haverhill Rep. X Andy Vargas. It aims to have children in the Commonwealth’s highest poverty schools start school days with a healthy breakfast.

Also filed by Holyoke Rep. Aaron Vega, Breakfast After the Bell would require approximately 600 Massachusetts schools serving low-income students to offer breakfast after the tardy bell rings. The expanded window for school breakfast is estimated to increase food access and decrease food insecurity for approximately 150,000 children across the Commonwealth.

“As Massachusetts works towards closing achievement gaps, student nutrition plays a vital role. Our children should be hungry to learn, not hungry to eat. Breakfast participation doubled, from 42 to 85%, in one Haverhill school after it implemented Breakfast After the Bell,“ said Vargas.

On the heels of the Student Opportunity Act’s investment of $1.5 billion our state’s education system, this school breakfast bill will increase school’s bottom line as well. As a federally reimbursed program, Breakfast After the Bell has the potential to provide up to $25 million statewide to Massachusetts school districts that increase participation rates to 80% and above. These payments are made directly to school nutrition departments, helping to support jobs, update kitchen equipment, and provide healthier menu options.

“This program produces results that close achievement and opportunity gaps. Kids who consistently eat breakfast see improvements in academic scores, improved physical and mental health, better school attendance, higher graduation rates, and even better earning potential as adults. This legislation is a no brainer. This bill makes educational, fiscal and moral sense and I’m thankful to my colleagues in the House for recognizing that,” said Vargas.

Breakfast After the Bell legislation now moves to the Massachusetts Senate.

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