BILLINGS – Governor Steve Bullock today visited Riverside Middle School students to deliver breakfast and highlight the Breakfast After the Bell program during National School Breakfast Week.
“Providing breakfast in the classroom ensures every student has access to a nutritional meal and is prepared to learn,” Governor Bullock said. “Today, we’re highlighting the success of school breakfast in the classroom in hopes that additional Montana schools recognize the benefits of breakfast programs and join us in the fight to end childhood hunger.”
Breakfast After the Bell is an innovative service model that shifts the time breakfast is served so students are allowed to eat a meal during or between morning lessons rather than in the cafeteria before classes begin. After incorporating breakfast into the morning schedule, schools see student participation in the breakfast program increase by double or more.
Governor and First Lady Bullock have partnered with Montana No Kid Hungry since 2014 to provide a total of $461,000 in private grant funding to 117 schools in implementing Breakfast After the Bell. At Riverside Middle School, participation has increased average daily participation from 67 percent to 78 percent over the last year. Statewide, 61 percent of food insecure students have gained access to breakfast since 2014, up from 46 percent.
Expanding school breakfast in Billings is a top priority during Governor Bullock’s remaining time in office. The Billings School District has the largest gap in free and reduced qualified/eligible students that are eating lunch but are not accessing breakfast. Four schools (Billings Senior, Billings West, Riverside Middle School, and Medicine Crow received a total of $20,000 for Breakfast After the Bell from 2015 to 2018. Before the program was implemented at the four schools, 41 percent of students who qualified for free and reduced meals and were eating lunch were also eating breakfast. Now, 83 percent of students are eating breakfast. In the 2019-2020 school year, Montana No Kid Hungry awarded $11,500 to implement Breakfast After the Bell at Castle Rock Middle School and Lewis and Clark Elementary.
In addition to securing funding to sustain the program, Governor Bullock is doing outreach with school leaders to discuss implementing Breakfast After the Bell and raising awareness about the program’s success.
Educators have found the program to be successful in addressing food insecurity and preventing trauma associated with chronic hunger, as well as promoting a culture of inclusivity that helps students feel connected and sets a positive tone for the school day. Over 300 schools across Montana are serving breakfast during class hours this school year.
Grants are offered by Montana No Kid Hungry, which is housed under the Department of Public Health and Human Services. Schools can apply for funding online through the Montana No Kid Hungry grant portal, with opportunities available during the spring and fall. Anyone interested in starting a new breakfast program, transitioning their existing program to an alternative service model, or for questions about upcoming grant opportunities, contact Linda Cleatus at LCleatus@mt.gov or by phone at 406-444-3925.
About National School Breakfast Week
National School Breakfast is a celebration permanently established in 1975 by an act of Congress. Schools across the country celebrate with special menu items, events, and student activities. The National School Breakfast Program serves more than 14 million children every school day.