Every day in American public schools, 31 million children qualify for and receive free or reduced-price lunch. But while the eligibility requirements are exactly the same, only about half of these children also receive free breakfast.
Anti-hunger advocates say these lower participation rates are due in part to the logistics of serving breakfast before the start of the school day, which is typical in most schools, as well as the stigma for families.
The non-profit Share our Strength, however, has devised a simple and innovative solution for overcoming these obstacles: serve breakfast as part of the school day, in the classroom. The organization’s initiative – called “Breakfast After the Bell” – is gaining traction among more states. It also has a celebrity champion – actor Jeff Bridges – who has been promoting the effort this month. States that have passed “breakfast after the bell” legislation include Colorado, Texas, Arkansas and West Virginia, as well as Washington, D.C.
In Maryland, which began a pilot program around this concept in 1998, researchers have seen a dramatic increase in school breakfast participation – up to 90 percent – along with less absenteeism and better test scores.
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