Schools across the country have seen the positive impacts of serving breakfast after the morning bell: fewer disciplinary incidents, better attendance and improved test scores.

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FROM Pullman to Ellensburg to Vancouver, hunger is a legacy of the Great Recession in our state. It is especially evident in schools where three out of four public-school teachers say that students regularly come to school hungry. Hungry students struggle to concentrate and face greater barriers to educational success.

Luckily, this legislative session there is a simple and cost-effective solution proposed — it’s called Breakfast After the Bell. Our elected officials could return from Olympia with a commitment to reducing hunger, improving educational outcomes and leveraging millions of federal dollars to make breakfast more accessible to students who need it most.

Breakfast After the Bell would make the most important meal of the day part of the school day — just like lunch. Children who eat school breakfast are fueled with physical, academic and social advantages. Unlike many partisan issues, this is a simple solution with which we should all agree.

The school breakfast program is designed to provide a healthy and nutritious breakfast to the kids who need it most. Unfortunately, two-thirds of Washington students who need school breakfast are missing out because of barriers, such as bus and carpool schedules, social stigma and peer pressure.

A school nutrition program that doesn’t work exacerbates the barriers to education facing students in low-income families and students of color. A new report from the Food Research and Action Center shows that while legislators debated this issue over the last three years, we‘ve dropped from 39th to 45th in the nation in feeding breakfast to low-income students — we must act now. We are better than that.

We support Breakfast After the Bell because it is a smart solution to addressing hunger in our community. United Way of King County has provided grants to pilot the initiative across Washington state — the results have been tremendous. Unfortunately, most schools aren’t able to pilot this on their own. This legislation would take the pilot to scale and provide a guarantee that hungry students have access to food where and when it matters.

Breakfast After The Bell is targeted at the most vulnerable students. It’s designed to get to work feeding kids in roughly 400 high-need schools, where 70 percent or more students qualify for subsidized meals. That means that would be working in places where it could have the biggest impact.

Breakfast After The Bell legislation is necessary because it is a gap-closer. It works in schools where kids are furthest from educational and other forms of opportunity — where lots of children from low-income families and children of color are learning.

The good news is that this smart solution is also highly cost-effective. It provides about $2.5 million in one-time startup funds to help schools implement the program. As more students eat breakfast each day, it would leverage more than $20 million in federal funds annually.

Schools across the country have seen the positive impacts of implementing Breakfast After the Bell programs — fewer disciplinary incidents, better attendance and improved test scores.

Breakfast after the Bell would be a game-changer for the 25,000 students who would benefit from this legislation. That is why school leaders, parents, teachers, anti-hunger groups and dozens of others are urging our legislators to pass this legislation. The state House recently passed this important legislation, and we are calling on the Senate to follow its lead.

Now is the time. Our legislators can invest in our future with a vote for Breakfast After the Bell.

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