Success of school breakfast programs will benefit all | My Turn

Sen. Lisa Wellman (D-Mercer Island) writes about the expansion of Breakfast after the Bell.

We know that too many students in Washington start their school day without the benefit of a nutritional breakfast.

We also know that for far too many children, the meals they receive in school are the only substantial nutrition they get all day. In Washington state, one-in-seven kids live in homes that struggle to put food on the table and 18 percent of the state’s 2,445 schools have 70 percent or more students receiving free and reduced-price meals.

This year in Olympia, state leaders stepped up and took action to address this preventable barrier to learning.

Last Wednesday, Gov. Jay Inslee signed legislation that will expand the successful Breakfast after the Bell program. It will give more students the opportunity to learn without being distracted by hunger or lack of energy and, because the meal is offered after the first bell of the day, it will benefit the many students who take a bus or walk to school.

One reason lawmakers were eager to expand this program is that we’ve already seen results in schools where this program has been making a dramatic difference.

At Mount View Elementary in White Center, where the number of kids receiving breakfast has increased by 60 percent, school leaders say the student body has developed an increased sense of community, is more focused, and is less disruptive.

We’ve heard similar accounts from other school districts that have had the chance to implement Breakfast after the Bell.

As this program starts expanding, I am excited to see how students, teachers and parents will benefit. We also know that this is just one common-sense measure we can take to make sure all kids in the wealthiest country on earth have a fighting chance at a quality education.

Sometimes the simplest changes can make the biggest difference in our lives. It’s heartening to see our state make progress for our state’s most valuable assets – our children.

Sen. Lisa Wellman, D-Mercer Island, chairs the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee and was the prime sponsor of Breakfast after the Bell legislation in the Senate.