The Total Child

Breakfast After the Bell Legislation Passed in New York State

 Permanent link

This guest post was written by Jessica Pino-Goodspeed, Child Nutrition Programs Specialist, Hunger Solutions New York. 

Albany School Breakfast Event
Jessica Pino-Goodspeed presenting at the American Dairy Association North East's National School Breakfast Week in Albany, NY.The goal of the event was to highlight Governor Cuomo's "No Student Goes Hungry" campaign, and present a "state of the state" on New York School Breakfast in March 2018.

 Over half of students who attend NYS public schools are eligible to eat free and reduced-price school breakfast. But less than 1 in 3 of these students eat school breakfast. Low participation in school breakfast is not a new phenomenon in New York State. The federally-funded School Breakfast Program has historically been underutilized, placing NYS consistently among the poorest performing states in a national ranking based on state's efficiency in reaching low-income children with school breakfast.

In January 2018, Governor Andrew Cuomo introduced a statewide solution to low participation in school breakfast. In the 2019FY Executive Budget, Governor Cuomo introduced a comprehensive program entitled "No Student Goes Hungry". Drawing from evidence-based strategies for addressing chronic low participation in school breakfast, the Governor’s plan proposed a new education law. This law will require all public schools with 70% or more of students who qualify for free and reduced-price school meals to offer school breakfast after the start of the instructional day – also referred to as Breakfast After the Bell – by the 2018-2019 school year.

In April 2018, NYS Legislature passed “No Student Goes Hungry” consequently putting into effect a requirement to ensure high-poverty schools are taking necessary steps to ensure that school breakfast is accessible at all students. Enacting Breakfast After the Bell legislation as quickly and effectively New York has spoken to the level of commitment from both our Governor and the State Legislature to mitigate the impact of hunger that 1 in 5 children in our state faces each day.

Thanks to the vision of local school district leaders, we are not starting from scratch with this new Breakfast After the Bell legislation. Many districts across the state took it upon themselves to implement Breakfast After the Bell early because they recognized that a child could not be hungry to learn if they are just plain hungry. Their leadership is now more critical than ever as new schools that are impacted by this Breakfast After the Bell requirement start to explore changes to their breakfast programs. These successful districts – many of which were AASA grantees– have already served as mentors to both administrators and school nutrition leaders as they implemented Breakfast After the Bell models like breakfast in the classroom and grab and go in their districts.

Breakfast After the Bell is not uncharted territory in New York. Schools are doing it well and gaining recognition. For example, Newburgh Enlarged City School District ranked 3rd in a national analysis of large districts performance in reaching low-income students with school breakfast. It's clear that there is a tremendous success and best practices to build upon across the state.  

Successful Breakfast After the Bell school districts have not only increased their breakfast participation and rebuilt financially robust breakfast programs, but also the impact of their breakfast programs have extended beyond the school nutrition department with positive implications on tardiness, disciplinary issues, and attendance.

This breakfast legislation is a game changer because it levels the playing field among all high-poverty schools across the state to ensure – regardless of where you attend school – breakfast is accessible. Schools face competing priorities, but hunger cannot wait and is a critical priority. This urgency is underscored by the research that links hunger with adverse impacts on children's ability to learn, mental health, behavior, and social-emotional development. Thanks to our state’s strategic investment in Breakfast After the Bell and the enactment of breakfast legislation, schools have a solution to eliminate hunger during the school day as a barrier to student success.