These days, it is hard to believe that the entire Illinois legislature could all agree on whether the sun will rise in the east tomorrow, but unanimous agreement has actually occurred. Senate Bill 2393 (SB2393), which amends the School Breakfast and Lunch Program Act, has passed the House with a 113-0 vote and the Senate with a 58-0 vote and now awaits the governor’s signature.
The act would introduce “Breakfast After the Bell” to make school breakfast more accessible to the students who need it the most by serving it after the start of the school day. One in five students in Illinois struggles with hunger, but the state ranks 42nd in the US in providing breakfast to students. Because of this access gap, more than half of the children in Illinois who depend on free or reduced-price lunch start their school day without school breakfast.
In many schools, breakfast is served in the cafeteria long before the start of the school day. The Breakfast After the Bell Bill would address this issue by serving breakfast as part of the school day, eliminating children not having breakfast because of timing, transportation schedules, or social stigma.
Students can’t learn on an empty stomach, and this bill would make school breakfast more accessible to over 175,000 children.
While the bill would allow local school boards to opt out of the Breakfast After the Bell program if it results in financial hardship, every high-need school in Illinois would see increased revenues by switching to Breakfast After the Bell due to increased federal funding for higher participation in the school breakfast program. If schools with high rates of poverty reached an ideal 70% school breakfast participation rate, it would bring in an additional $42 million of federal funding to Illinois schools.
Scott Riddle, Principal of the Beardstown Middle School/High School, wrote in the Quincy Herald-Whig about his school’s experience with Breakfast After the Bell: “Since implementing a breakfast after the bell program, we’ve seen the behavioral and financial benefits firsthand. We’ve seen fewer discipline problems and improved academic performance. We also have seen a decrease in our absences and tardiness, which increases our attendance and results in additional funds for our school. Financially, the breakfast program more than pays for itself.”
Illinois PTA is a supporter of Breakfast After the Bell and a partner in Rise & Shine Illinois, a group that worked to pass this legislation. With unanimous support from the Illinois legislature, the bill will almost certainly be signed by the governor. Ensure that your school district adopts Breakfast After the Bell so every child in your school can start the day fed and ready to learn.