In August 2016, Governor Rauner signed Public Act 099-0850 creating the “Breakfast After the Bell” program. Historically, schools have provided breakfast prior to the start of the school day. However, the traditional model may discourage student participation due to stigma, transportation, and late arrival. Beginning with the 2017-2018 school year, Breakfast After the Bell requires that, in certain schools, breakfast is served after the start of the instructional day, while allowing schools to also offer breakfast before school begins if they choose. Advocates anticipate that this change will result in an additional 175,000 low income students in Illinois eating breakfast at school.
Illinois was a pilot state in the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) of the federal Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which allows districts with a high percentage of low-income families to serve free breakfast and lunch to all students and increases the rate of meal reimbursement. Within the first two years of CEP implementation, breakfast participation increased an average of 25%. Breakfast After the Bell furthers the effort to ensure students start the day ready to learn.
Breakfast After the Bell is required for schools: 1) where at least 70% of students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches based on the prior year’s October claim; 2) where at least 70% of students are classified as low income according to the Fall Housing Data from the previous year; or 3) that are a Community Eligibility Provision site and have an individual site percentage for free or reduced-price meals of 70% or more.
Districts may opt out of the program if they demonstrate current delivery of school breakfast for at least 70% of the free and reduced-price lunch-qualifying students or that the expense reimbursement would not fully cover the costs of implementation. Opting out due to budgetary restraints requires the district to submit a cost analysis to the district’s board of education and to hold an advertised public hearing.
Schools must determine the breakfast distribution method appropriate for their students and staff including, but not limited to:
Grab-and-Go: Students pick up pre-packed breakfasts from the cafeteria or carts in hallways and consume meals in the classroom.
Breakfast in the Classroom: Meals are delivered to classrooms or served from mobile carts in the hallways to be consumed in the classroom.
Second Chance Breakfast or Mid-Morning Nutrition Break: After first period, breakfast is served during an extended passing period in the cafeteria or en route to second period.
As long as breakfast is served after the start of the school day and prior to the designated lunch period, schools are given great latitude in crafting methods of breakfast distribution.
*Ala Salameh will be a second-year law student at Loyola University Chicago this fall and is a Franczek Radelet LEADS Fellow.