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Harmon school breakfast expansion signed into law

Harmon082216Breakfast will be available to more Illinois schoolchildren under a measure sponsored by Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) that was signed into law Friday.

Senate Bill 2393 will require public elementary, middle and high schools with a student low-income rate of at least 70 percent to offer breakfast to students after the instructional day has begun.

Each school will be able to determine the Breakfast After the Bell model that suits its students, such as breakfast in the classroom, grab and go breakfast and second-chance breakfast. Schools that participate in the program are able to capture federal money to pay for the cost of offering these meals.

 

"As thousands of Illinois schoolchildren head back to the classroom this fall, too many of them will do so without a good, nourishing start to their day at home,” Harmon said. “This new law will enable more schools to offer breakfast at school, which should boost students’ ability to learn, to stay awake and to pay attention in class. That will translate into better attendance, better grades and an overall better experience in school."

The law allows schools to be waived from the requirement if they can show that a breakfast after the bell program would be financially burdensome.

According to the latest Rise and Shine Illinois Breakfast Report in February, Illinois ranks 42nd in the nation for serving school breakfast. If Illinois school districts were to achieve 70 percent student participation in breakfast programs, an additional $42 million in federal dollars would be funneled into schools.

Child poverty in Illinois is at its highest level since 1999, and about one in five Illinois children live in homes where meals aren’t guaranteed. About 73 percent of teachers say they have students who regularly come to school hungry because there isn’t enough food at home.

Average daily participation in school breakfast programs has increased slightly every year since 2011. The latest figures show that on an average school day last year, nearly 400,000 low-income Illinois children participated in school breakfast.

But every day, more than 450,000 other children miss out on breakfast and go hungry early in the school day. More than 175,000 additional students would benefit from breakfast if Illinois schools implement breakfast after the bell programs under Harmon’s legislation.

Illinois schools that participate in breakfast programs are eligible for federal nutrition dollars. The National School Breakfast Program was established in 1966 under President Lyndon B. Johnson to provide free or low-cost breakfasts to schoolchildren.

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