As a new national report shows New Jersey failed to make significant progress toward serving more low-income students school breakfast, Advocates for Children of New Jersey and the New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition are calling on the state Legislature to require high-poverty schools to serve breakfast during the regular school day.
Known as breakfast after the bell, this method is far more effective in ensuring that all children begin their school day with a health meal.
The Food Research and Action Center’s (FRAC) School Breakfast Scorecard found that New Jersey’s participation rate inched up slightly from 58.6 to 59.4 percent from the 2015-16 to the 2016-17 school years. The state retained its 19th place rank.
More recent state data, however, show New Jersey is headed in the wrong direction. From April 2016 to October 2017, New Jersey schools served breakfast to 4 percent fewer low-income students – a decline of nearly 10,600 students, according to Advocates for Children of New Jersey’s analysis of New Jersey Department of Agriculture data.
“If this trend continues, New Jersey risks sliding back down the national school breakfast ranks,’’ said Cecilia Zalkind, president & CEO, Advocates for Children of New Jersey. “We cannot allow that to happen when tens of thousands of children now rely on this morning nutrition to concentrate and learn.’’
“Over the past six years, we have worked diligently with many school districts to help them implement breakfast after the bell,’’ said Adele LaTourette, director, New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition. “Unfortunately, we’ve hit a brick wall in many districts where school administrators simply will not consider even piloting this much more effective approach to serving breakfast.’’
The two advocacy groups are working with state lawmakers to introduce legislation that would require all schools with at least 70 percent of students eligible for free or low-cost school breakfast to serve the meal after the first bell rings, typically during the first few minutes of school day.
Other states that have implemented similar requirements have seen participation skyrocket, receiving millions more in federal dollars to fight childhood hunger and ranking as best in the nation, according to FRAC’s report.
About the report
The Food Research and Action Center measures the reach of the School Breakfast Program by comparing the number of low-income children that participate in breakfast to those that participate in school lunch. The School Breakfast Scorecard contains national and state data for breakfast participation. School Breakfast - Making it Work in Large Districts surveys 73 large urban school districts across the country on school breakfast participation rates and policies during the school year.
Both reports are available at www.frac.org.