Hunger grows in Colorado for school breakfast bill

Lawmakers consider requiring morning meal after first bell of students’ day

DENVER – Breakfast at the desk isn’t just for grown-ups anymore. Colorado lawmakers are considering a bill to encourage more schools to serve the most important meal right in the classroom if necessary.

“It’s going to help with the attention span for kids that otherwise may be hungry and didn’t have breakfast,” said Colorado Springs Democratic Rep. Tony Exum, one of the sponsors of the legislation. The bill will get its first vote Monday at a House committee.

The legislation would require schools that have 70 percent of more students who qualify for free or reduced lunch to serve breakfast after the first bell of the day. Schools, from kindergarten to 12th grade, would have a choice on how and where to serve the meal.

“It can be during brief recess after the first bell, or it can be a grab-and-go, it can be while teachers are doing some instructional things, or doing announcements or something,” Exum said.

Schools already serve breakfast before classes begin, but Exum says that students don’t always get there on time to eat. He said schools that already serve breakfast after the bell, including those at an Adams County district, have found that more students eat breakfast than they did when the meal was served before classes started.

If the bill becomes law, it would be effective during the 2014 school year. Schools with fewer than 100 students, or schools in districts with fewer than 300 total students, would be exempted from the law, as would schools that don’t participate in the federal school lunch program.

Parker Republican Chris Holbert, a member of the education committee that will hear the bill, said when to serve breakfast should be left up to individual districts.

“That’s why we have local school boards that make the decisions for what’s for the community,” he said.

He said not every district may be interested in the new directive and used his school district, Douglas County, as an example. Douglas County is one of the most affluent parts of the state.

“In my house, I think my wife and I would not have an interest in the schools that our sons attend in devoting time and attention to that because we do that. Is that everyone? No. I would never presume to say that that’s right for everyone,” he said.