Apr 19, 2013 8:43 PM by Andy Koen

Free breakfast bill clears State Senate

DENVER - Certain public schools in Colorado could soon be required to serve free breakfast to students during the start of the school day. House Bill 1006, the Breakfast after the Bell bill, passed the State Senate Friday after clearing the House last month.

Beginning in the fall of 2014, those schools that have at least 80 percent of their students who qualify for federal free or reduced lunches will be required to serve a free healthy breakfast in class to those students who wish to eat it. Mandatory participation is expanded the following year to schools with at least 70 percent of their enrollment on free or reduced lunches.

Proponents say children learn better when they have a fully tummy.

"We know it is difficult for kids to learn when all they can think about is a growling stomach," said State Sen. Angela Giron, (D) Pueblo.

"Hunger shouldn't be the reason why one student falls behind other students, especially not when we have efficient and effective programs like Breakfast after the Bell."

Giron sponsored the bill in the State Senate and Colorado Springs Democratic Rep. Tony Exum sponsored the bill in the State House. It was backed by the lobby group Hunger Free Colorado.

The US Department of Agriculture gives local school districts money to serve free and reduced cost meals to students who come from households that meet income qualifications. For a family of four, that income limit is currently $42,643 per year.

Schools in Colorado Springs may end up raising their meal prices to afford to buy the food and hire the cafeteria workers once the law is fully implemented. Glenn Gustafson, Chief Financial Officer for Colorado Springs School District 11, told News 5 last month that the federal reimbursement isn't enough at the 70 percent level to cover all of the meals that would be serve.

He estimates the district will to lose as much $60,000 a year under the new law.


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