OLYMPIA – While poverty and homelessness have been frequent topics in recent months, the issue of youth hunger has been a consistent focus for the House Democrats. Hungry kids don’t learn as well as students who start the day with a healthy breakfast. As poverty and homelessness among children has increased, so has the number of students who go without meals in the morning. House Democrats, led by Rep. Zack Hudgins (D-Tukwila), proposed Breakfast After the Bell, a program that would allow students to start class with a meal to begin their day. For students who can’t arrive early enough to take part in a school breakfast program before the bell rings, this provides a healthy option to ensure they have the best chance at academic success.
Unfortunately, Senate Republicans blocked passage of Hudgins’ legislation after the House sent them the bill with bipartisan support three times. In the special session, Hudgins introduced a new, watered-down version. The legislation, HB 3009, is a “Breakfast After the Bell Lite” version of legislation sponsored by Rep. Hudgins. The original bill, HB 1295, built on existing programs like those in Tukwila, where students in high-need schools would be provided breakfast during the beginning of class. In the compromise bill, state law would have been modified to allow for a “morning meal food program” to be considered part of instructional time as long as students can engage in educational activity while food is being consumed. The compromise bill failed to move forward.
“Any version of the Breakfast After the Bell bill would have been a positive step forward,” said Hudgins. “Hungry kids can’t learn, it’s a simple fact and it’s long past time we should have acted. We tried to take out anything in the original bill that someone found objectionable and boil it down to its most basic piece—feeding kids.”