Rep. Mike Steele aims to help low-income students, create partnership between local farmers and schools

Rep. Mike Steele, R-Chelan, is helping farmers team up with public schools to expand access to breakfast for Washington's most impoverished students. House Bill 1508, also known as Breakfast After the Bell, received wide bipartisan support yesterday when it was adopted 83-15. It calls on schools in areas with high poverty rates to continue offering breakfast after the beginning of the school day during the first period of instruction.

An amendment offered by Steele created the partnership with the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA). According to Steele, the WSDA's existing Farm to School and Small Farm and Direct Marketing programs are a perfect fit to help Breakfast After the Bell succeed.

“We know outcomes improve when kids start the day with breakfast,” said Steele. “By including the WSDA in this program, we reinvest in our communities and give small local farmers some much-needed economic stability.”

The amendment by Steele has received broad statewide support from agriculture groups, including the Washington State Farm Bureau, as well as numerous individuals within the agriculture community.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, in October 2016, the average daily participation in Washington in the school breakfast program was 201,252. An impact review from the Washington State Board of Health found “strong evidence” that HB 1508 would increase participation in breakfast programs and improve health outcomes; narrow educational opportunity gaps and decrease educational disparities; and, would likely improve educational outcomes, attainment and earning potential.

In the past, students in Washington state have received breakfast in schools through a mix of grants, federal and state funds. HB 1508 would receive the same mix of funding, to the extent that funds are available. Also included in HB 1508 is a directive to review the impacts and benefits of Breakfast After the Bell by 2025, at which point lawmakers would evaluate the success of the program.

HB 1508 will now head to the Senate for a concurrent vote before reaching the governor's desk for final approval.

The 2018 legislative session convened on Monday, Jan. 8, and is scheduled to run for 60 consecutive days.


Washington State House Republican Communications