Bill expands student breakfast
By Roth Leahy - Staff Reporter
Students across the state would be able to receive breakfast after the school day starts thanks to a bill winding its way through the Legislature.
House Bill 1508 would expand the use of nutritional and meal programs for students eligible for free- or reduced- price lunch.
HB 1508 failed to gain traction in the general session, but has regained life in the special session.
Being a teacher and having two children prompted Vancouver state Rep. Monica Stonier, D-Vancouver, to sponsor the bill.
This bill would allow school districts that are in high need of breakfasts for students, to provide breakfast after the bell.
"We cannot constantly see the struggles of students because they don't have access to food," Rep. Stonier said.
The law in Washington currently prohibits children from eating food during instructional time.
School districts have to meet a certain number of hours of instructional time with students before the end of the year.
However, lunch time is not considered instructional time in the classroom.
"This bill would change the language of the law and allow food to be eaten after school time starts," Rep. Stonier said.
To be eligible to be considered as a high-need school to qualify for this program, the school would have to have 70 percent or more students receiving reduced- price or free lunches.
The bill would also eliminate the co-pays for breakfast and lunch programs for students who have free or reduced-price lunch.
This would expand the elimination of co- pays for all K-12 instead of kindergarten through third grade.
"This would create a partnership with the Department of Agriculture to bring food grown from the farms into the customer base of public schools," Rep. Stonier said.
Food grown on farms would be sent directly to school districts to provide more healthy alternatives for food distributed through market-based programs.
Nearby school districts could be affected.
According to the Washington state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, 65.3 percent of Highline School District students participated in reduced and free lunch programs for the 2015-2016 school year.
Elsewhere, 74.3 percent of students in the Tukwila School District, 48.8 percent of students in the Kent School District, and 59.3 percent of students in the Federal Way School District have participated in reduced- price and free lunch programs.
All costs will be covered by grants from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.
HB 1508 passed the House with a 90-8 vote and is now in committee in the Senate.