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February 10, 2015
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Contact: Nancy Parello, (908) 399-6031, nparello@acnj.org

NJ Achieves Highest Increase in Nation for School Breakfast

New Jersey achieved the greatest rise in the nation in the percent of low-income students eating breakfast at school, according to a new national report released today.

The Food Research and Action Center found that New Jersey’s participation rate jumped nearly 13 percent from the 2012-13 to the 2013-14 school years. The state now ranks 28th in the nation for breakfast participation – up from 37th last year and 46th a few years ago. The average national increase was about 3 percent.

“This means that more children are beginning their school day with the nutrition they need to concentrate and learn,” said Cecilia Zalkind, executive director of Advocates for Children of New Jersey, a leader of the NJ Food for Thought School Breakfast Campaign. “New Jersey’s school leaders should be commended for addressing childhood hunger – a major barrier to learning.”

Zalkind credited the rise with more schools serving breakfast during the first few minutes of the school day. Known as breakfast after the bell, this approach significantly increases student participation in this federally-funded child nutrition program.

The NJ Food for Thought Campaign, launched in 2011, has been instrumental in convincing school officials to change the way they serve breakfast. The campaign is a partnership among New Jersey anti-hunger, education and health organizations, state agencies and child advocates. The Food Research Action Center, the American Dairy Association and Council and the Mid-Atlantic Dairy Council are the campaign’s national partners.

Prior to the launch of the campaign, New Jersey historically ranked nearly last in the nation for its low student participation in school breakfast. According to FRAC’s report, New Jersey schools are now serving nearly 51 percent of low-income children who also ate lunch at school. The goal is to serve 70 percent of these students.

“With growing poverty and hunger, school breakfast is one of the most effective anti-hunger programs available,” said Adele LaTourette, executive director of the New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition and co-leader of the school breakfast campaign. “Not only are schools feeding hungry children, they are bringing more federal dollars to local schools to ensure that every child has a healthy breakfast each school day.”

Zalkind noted that while this is great progress, New Jersey has about 300,000 low-income students who are still missing out on breakfast.

“We are out of the bottom 10, but not yet in the top 10,” Zalkind said. “We still have work to do. We urge school leaders who haven’t done so yet to consider this simple change in the way they serve breakfast. Everyone wins when kids eat breakfast.”

To learn more about the campaign, visit njschoolbreakfast.org.

Advocates for Children of New Jersey

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