How WA Can Step up and Give Kids Breakfast After the Bell

By United Way of King County, on June 19, 2017 | In Breaking the Cycle of Poverty

The national school breakfast program is designed to address hunger, but it isn’t working as well as it could in Washington. We rank 45th in the nation in program participation among low-income kids.

That’s really, really bad.

Why the low score? Often, schools don’t think they have the time. It might even seem counter-productive: asking teachers to make room for a meal during instructional time.

Thing is, it isn’t that hard.

Take Madrona Elementary, for example. The school adjusted to start every day with 20 minutes of in-class breakfast time. Morning routines didn’t suffer. Kids are flourishing.

“It puts all the kids on the same playing field and we’re already starting to see dramatic differences in their academics,” says Kathy Allen, part of the school’s Family Support program.

Schools with high breakfast participation have better academic performance, and leverage more federal dollars to support nutrition programs. Kids typically don’t eat breakfast because of adult problems like transportation and stigma.

West Seattle Elementary Breakfast Challenge Winners with Sounders Taylor Graham.
West Seattle Elementary Breakfast Challenge Winners with Sounders Taylor Graham.

This month, West Seattle Elementary Principal McCowan-Conyers accepted the 2017 Breakfast Challenge Championship trophy because so many of her students are eating school breakfast. Students proudly wore their medals and received a special visit from the Seattle Sounders. How did that happen? The Seattle School District took advantage of the Community Eligibility Provision which allows all students to eat free breakfast and lunch – no lunch debt here. United Way then teamed up with Assistant Superintendent Pegi McEvoy, Nutrition Services, Local 609 and the amazing team at West Seattle Elementary to implement Breakfast After the Bell. Today, kids start the day with the fuel they need to succeed.

Breakfast After the Bell Medal

United Way and our partners have been working with the WA legislature to pass House Bill 1508, which would guarantee all kids in high-need schools have Breakfast After The Bell. The bill has support from every major stakeholder but is stuck in the state Senate. Call your Senator and urge them to support the bill.

Let’s do more of this.

We have a target list of dozens of schools that could benefit from collaborating to improve breakfast participation. Schools like Mark Twain Elementary in the Federal Way School District, Kent Elementary, Hilltop Elementary in Highline, and Asa Mercer Middle School in Seattle. As schools plan for the 2017-18 school year, we urge them to team up with United Way to Fuel Our Future.


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