Rep. Ortiz-Self votes to expand school breakfast programs

Feb 19, 2014

Edmonds resident Donna Wilson met with Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self, D-Mukilteo, and several other legislators in Olympia on Thursday, Feb. 13, and came away very impressed – which is not surprising, as both share a passion for education.

"I was particularly impressed by her," Wilson said of Ortiz-Self. "She has a lot of experience working with children and understands that you have to address the needs of the whole child and look at what's going on at home, too."

Ortiz-Self is a counselor at North Middle School in Everett. Wilson serves on United Way of Snohomish County's Kids Matter Vision Council and helped review grant applications last year.

"She seemed genuinely excited to meet with United Way and was very supportive of our issues," Wilson added.

After the meeting, Ortiz-Self said the work United Way does, especially with children, is invaluable to the community.

"They understand what those of us in the education system know far too well: that children who are hungry or hurting can't learn to their fullest capacity, so we must take a holistic approach in their education," Ortiz-Self said. "I am grateful for their visit and look forward to working with United Way on good public policy for Washington families."

Wilson and other volunteers urged lawmakers to expand early learning opportunities and to support an exciting program called "Breakfast after the Bell."

Children eligible to participate in school breakfast programs usually have to eat in the cafeteria before school begins, when their peers are playing outside or socializing.

Several schools across the country, recognizing the stigma that might be attached to this, have made breakfast part of the school day and available to every child.

Together, these new models are known as "Breakfast after the Bell."

According to research conducted by Washington Appleseed, 1 in 4 Washington state children are at risk of hunger.

As a result, many come to school hungry, have a hard time learning and can sometimes be disruptive. Washington ranks 41st in the nation in the participation rate for school breakfast by kids who are eligible for free or reduced lunch.

Legislation in other states and studies have shown that breakfast participation rates increase when barriers to participation are removed.

On Tuesday afternoon, legislators in the House of Representatives voted to approve the bill, HB 2536, 67-31. It now moves to the Senate for consideration.

"Working with lawmakers to ensure our children succeed in school is a key strategy for us," said Dennis G. Smith of Stanwood, president and CEO of United Way of Snohomish County.

"We look forward to working closely with Rep. Ortiz-Self," said Katrina Ondracek, vice president of public policy and community initiatives for United Way. "We share her goal of ensuring that every child has the opportunity to succeed in school."

The same day that Wilson was in Olympia, the Washington State House of Representatives passed Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self's legislation to gather statewide data on how family stressors affect academic performance.

"I believe children come to us with multiple needs, and many of them with traumatic experiences," Ortiz-Self said in a statement. "We know hungry and hurting children cannot learn to capacity."


United Way is a community impact organization serving Snohomish County for more than 70 years.

In addition to funding 107 programs through 40 agencies with a special focus on local health and human services, United Way of Snohomish County supports a number of initiatives focusing on early learning and education, financial stability for families, a youth program, North Sound 211 and an emerging initiative in survival English.

To find out more about United Way of Snohomish County, including how you can find help, how to volunteer and how United Way serves our community, visit their website at

-Edited by Beacon staff

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