the Gap:

Ending Student Hunger
with Breakfast After the Bell



New York State continues to underperform in reaching low-income children with free and reduced-price breakfast. On an average day during the the 2016-17 school year, less than 1 in 3 low-income students ate free and reduced-price school breakfast. Our failure to reach low-income students with school breakfast has resulted in New York State ranking 35th in a national evaluation of state’s performance in school breakfast.

The problem is clear: students starting their school day hungry is an unacceptable reality. 1 in 5 NYS children are food insecure, meaning they lack access to enough food for an active, healthy life. Statewide, 63%—over 1.6 million students—enrolled in public schools qualify for free and reduced-price meals.

Schools are on the front line of alleviating childhood hunger, and the federal and state funded school breakfast and lunch programs provide the nourishment low-income children cannot always get at home. Over two-thirds (66%) of low-income children participate in lunch, while only one-third (32%) participate in breakfast.

There is good news. Many schools across New York State are closing the participation gap between breakfast and lunch. School districts that are leading the state with strong breakfast participation have implemented universal Breakfast After the Bell programs—where breakfast is offered to all students at no cost, after the official start of the school day.

While the local growth in school breakfast participation in these districts has been robust, substantial growth in statewide school breakfast participation has yet to be realized. Building upon the success of universal, Breakfast After the Bell at the local level provides clear, concrete steps toward expanding student access to school breakfast and improving statewide participation.

State legislation to require universal Breakfast After the Bell is the most efficient and cost effective way to reach more low-income children with school breakfast. Current school breakfast law requires schools with 40% or more students qualifying for free and reduced-price school meals to operate the School Breakfast Program, with the state contributing additional funding for every breakfast served. This policy does not provide guidance on timing of when school breakfast is served. Typically school breakfast is offered in the cafeteria before the start of the school day, and before most children even arrive for school.


In January 2018, Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed a five-point plan to address student hunger, including a requirement that Breakfast After the Bell be offered in schools with 70% or more free and reduced-price eligible students. The “No Student Goes Hungry” proposal ensures that high-need schools are offering breakfast in a way that is accessible to all students. It provides policy makers, advocates, educators, school districts, and state and federal child nutrition agencies with directives and resources to help more low-income kids start the day ready to learn with a healthy breakfast.