Last week, Governor Charlie Baker held a ceremonial bill signing for Senator Sal DiDomenico’s bill, An Act regarding breakfast after the bell. While the Governor officially signed this bill into law back in August, the Administration and the Legislature had not yet been able to come together for a signing ceremony, as was often customary prior the COVID-19 pandemic. In lieu of an in-person ceremony, the Governor hosted a virtual ceremony, where Senator DiDomenico and his partners on the Rise and Shine Coalition were able to speak to the importance of this bill and witness the Governor sign their legislation into law.
“Breakfast After the Bell has been a top policy priority of mine for years now,” said Senator DiDomenico, “and it was a great pleasure to join with my friends on the Rise and Shine Coalition, my House partners, my staff, and members of the Administration today to officially close the chapter on this legislative campaign and celebrate this law that will undoubtedly help feed thousands of kids across Massachusetts. Of course, we know that more work lies ahead to tackle food insecurity and childhood hunger– especially in light of the COVID pandemic. However, I also know this entire team is ready to pick up where we left off and continue our work to ensure that all children in this Commonwealth have access to the food and nutrition that they need and deserve. I can’t wait to continue partnering with them and look forward to the work that lies ahead.”
Senator DiDomenico has been a longtime champion of anti-hunger policies in the Massachusetts Senate and has sponsored this Breakfast After the Bell bill for the past two legislative sessions. Earlier in the year, he was the recipient of the 2020 Breakfast Hero Award from the national anti-hunger campaign No Kid Hungry for his advocacy on Breakfast After the Bell and his work to end childhood hunger in the Commonwealth. This new law is the culmination of many years work and advocacy by Senator DiDomenico, his staff, and food security advocates from across the state.
Massachusetts previously required all schools with high percentages of students from low-income families to provide breakfast to every eligible student. However, because breakfast was typically offered before the bell and in the cafeteria, participation levels have been low—at less than 40 percent—compared to 8090 percent participation for free and reduced lunch.
To remedy this problem, An Act regarding breakfast after the bell now requires all public K12 schools with 60 percent or more students eligible for free or reduced-price meals under the federal National School Lunch Program to offer breakfastafter the instructional day begins. Moving breakfast from before the bell to after the bell is a proven strategy to boost breakfast participation and ensure that all students have the nutrition they need to start their day ready to learn. 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 percent and above. These payments are made directly to school nutrition departments, helping to support jobs, update kitchen equipment, and provide healthier menu options