Local Officials Observe New Student Hunger Relief Initiative

January 10, 2018
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Senator Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett), Senator Joseph Boncore (D – Winthrop) and Representative Adrian Madaro (D – East Boston), along with staff from Senator Chang-Diaz’s office and members from The Greater Boston Food Bank and Project Bread (affiliates with the Rise and Shine Massachusetts coalition) attended James Otis Elementary School in East Boston for a special observation of the Breakfast after the Bell program.

Breakfast after the Bell allows all students to eat breakfast in their classroom, after the morning bell, regardless of their family income level. This ensures that all students are fed and ready to learn. A growing number of schools have identified this program as a solution to help feed hungry children, and it has shown significant impacts on school attendance, test scores, and health outcomes. James Otis Elementary is one of the few in the Boston Public School district operating breakfast in the classroom, one of the after the bell programs. Since the program was introduced five years ago, they went from serving 30 breakfasts a day to over 300 each morning.

This visit was an effort by Rise and Shine Massachusetts, a coalition led by The Greater Boston Food Bank, working to generate support and more awareness around the legislation introduced by State Senator Sal DiDomenico (D – Everett) and State Representative Aaron Vega (D – Holyoke) to require all schools with 60% or more students qualifying for free and reduced price meals to serve breakfast after the start of the school day. This is a statewide effort that would increase access to breakfast for nearly 150,000 low income children across the Commonwealth.

Despite being one of the wealthiest states in the nation, 1 in 7 children in Massachusetts live in families at risk of hunger because they’re not able to afford enough food. Statewide, 44% of students enrolled in public schools qualify for free or reduced meals.

A recent study by the Eos Foundation and Children’s HealthWatch ranked 33 high-poverty school districts across the state on their level of school breakfast participation. Boston ranks 14th in breakfast participation statewide and could stand to gain more than $2.4 million in additional federal meal reimbursements if they were to increase their participation to at least 80% across the district.