By Bob Dolgan
The path to the passage of SB2393 began in a conference room in Chicago in the Spring of 2015. It was soon after the election of a new Governor and several new members of the General Assembly, and few people in the state knew what to expect. The existing No Kid Hungry capacity-building strategy was making progress, but it was clear that updated legislation would be the swiftest way to provide breakfast to more children and lift Illinois’ breakfast ranking from 42nd. It also was clear that more research was needed to determine any costs a new breakfast bill would pass on to school districts. The Illinois No Kid Hungry team began drafting a school breakfast resolution, with the support of the Illinois Commission to End Hunger’s No Kid Hungry Working Group and the national office of Share Our Strength. The nonbinding breakfast resolution passed the Illinois Senate and House later in the spring, with the support of champion-advocates during Illinois Lobby Day.
The breakfast resolution promised that the No Kid Hungry Working Group would “provide the General Assembly with a report showing the impact of providing alternative breakfast models” by November 4, 2015. The Illinois No Kid Hungry team and the Social IMPACT Research Center at Heartland Alliance then analyzed data from the Illinois State Board of Education and the School Nutrition Association and concluded that 97% of school districts would have positive revenue by serving breakfast. Updated school breakfast legislation had long been part of the Illinois No Kid Hungry strategy, but by November we had the data to back up our assumptions and assuage legislators’ concerns.
The bill moved quickly after it was introduced in January. Momentum kept growing this spring, culminating with 300-plus pantry volunteers and other supporters rallying at the Capitol on May 11. The bill ultimately passed both chambers unanimously because of a broad coalition of partners in every part of Illinois. We’re grateful for everyone who helped us along the way. SB2393 gives us hope that Illinois can pass similar bipartisan bills in the future that benefit children while utilizing a research-based approach.