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October 20, 2015
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For Immediate Release
Contact:  Nancy Parello | nparello@acnj.org | (908) 399-6031

Passaic First for School Breakfast: Hunterdon Last

Passaic County schools jumped to first place for serving breakfast to a high percent of low-income children, rising from 13th place last year. Hunterdon was last, according to county rankings and profiles released today by Advocates for Children of New Jersey.

Find data for your school district here.

Passaic County schools fed 70 percent of children who qualify for free- or reduced-price school meals – far surpassing the statewide average of 44 percent.

Passaic’s rise in the rankings is primarily due to Paterson City schools switching to serving breakfast during the first few minutes of the school day and offering it free to all students. Known as “breakfast after the bell,” this approach significantly increases student participation. In Paterson, the percent of low-income students served rose from 27 percent in 2011 to 93 percent in 2015.

Rounding out the top five counties for school breakfast participation was Cumberland, Essex, Camden and Hudson. All of these counties have large districts that have also in recent years begun serving “breakfast after the bell,” rather than before school when most students have not yet arrived.

In addition to Hunterdon, the bottom five counties were Bergen, Sussex, Morris and Burlington.

“We have seen tremendous progress in districts across the state, with school leaders stepping up to make this do-able change that results in more children having the nutrition they need to concentrate and learn,” said Cecilia Zalkind, executive director of Advocates for Children of New Jersey.

In addition to the county rankings and profiles, ACNJ also released the 5th Annual NJ School Breakfast Report, in partnership with the NJ Food for Thought Campaign.

The report found that the number of New Jersey students eligible for free- or reduced-price school meals who ate a healthy breakfast at school rose from about 136,000 children in 2010 to 237,000 in 2015. That translates to roughly 100,000 more low-income children eating breakfast at school each day, the report said.

In addition, during this same time, the number of children living in higher-income families who ate breakfast at school also rose 31 percent — a sign that a growing number of parents who can afford to pay for breakfast prefer to have their children eat at school.

School districts are also bringing more federal dollars back to New Jersey. According to the current New Jersey State Budget, districts are expected to collect $92 million in federal reimbursements – about $45 million more than in state fiscal year 2011 the year before the school breakfast campaign was launched.

The report and data for local districts were released at the Fred W. Martin School in Jersey City, which offers free breakfast to all students and has higher-than-average student participation. Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno participated in the event, along with other local, state and federal leaders.

“New Jersey was number one in the country for increasing the number of children participating in breakfast after the bell.  Last year we served 49 million meals," said Lt. Governor Guadagno. “While our jump in rank was significant, from 48th to 28th in the nation, we will not be satisfied until we are first in the nation for meals served and we intend to find the best ways to achieve this goal. No child should start school hungry in our state."

Despite this tremendous progress, there is much work to do, Zalkind said. Nearly 300,000 children are still missing out on school breakfast, primarily because a growing number of students are eligible for free- or reduced-price school meals and school officials in some high-poverty districts have yet to embrace breakfast after the bell.

 “The need is growing,” Zalkind added, noting that rising child poverty has resulted in a 19 percent increase in low-income New Jersey children over the past five years, with 533,000 students now eligible for free- or reduced-price school meals.

The report identifies 48 high-poverty districts that are serving 30 percent or fewer of their eligible students. These school breakfast “underachievers” could increase student participation simply by serving breakfast during the first few minutes of the school day, Zalkind said.

“We are calling on school boards, superintendents, principals and teachers to provide leadership in expanding school breakfast because this is good for children, schools and the state as a whole,” Zalkind said. “Hungry children struggle to learn. Providing breakfast leverages the billions of dollars we invest each year in educating our children, ensuring that more students succeed in school and in life.”

For more information, visit www.njschoolbreakfast.org.

NJ School Breakfast Student Participation
County Rankings

COUNTY 2015 % of Eligible
Students Receiving
Passaic 70 1 13
Cumberland 54


Essex 51 3 3
Camden 50 4 5
Hudson 50 5 4
Cape May 48 6 2
Atlantic 48 7 7
Somerset 48 8 9
Middlesex 48 9 6
Union 44 10 11
Salem 43 11 17
Gloucester 40 12 16
Monmouth 39 13 10
Ocean 37 14 14
Warren 37 15 18
Mercer 34 16 12
Burlington 32 17 15
Morris 30 18 20
Sussex 27 19 18
Bergen 25 20 19
Hunterdon 2 21 21


Advocates for Children of New Jersey  (ACNJ) works with local, state and federal leaders to identify and implement changes that will benefit New Jersey’s children. www.acnj.org

The NJ Food for Thought Campaign is driven by a statewide coalition that includes New Jersey anti-hunger, education and health organizations, the New Jersey Departments of Agriculture, Education and Health 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.

Advocates for Children of New Jersey

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