New Jersey is now in the top 20 nationwide for ensuring that more low-income students start their school day with a healthy morning meal, giving them the nutrition they need to concentrate and learn, according to a national report released today.
The Food Research and Action Center’s (FRAC) School Breakfast Scorecard found that New Jersey’s participation rate increased 6 percent, pushing it to 19th place. The report stated nearly 59 percent of low-income students who ate lunch at school also received breakfast in 2015-16.
New Jersey ranked 23rd last year and 46th in 2011, before the launch of the NJ Food for Thought Campaign, which has been credited with fueling the increase in school breakfast participation.
Also, Jersey City ranked 2nd, and Newark was 5th nationwide for their high student participation rates, according to FRAC’s School Breakfast – Making it Work in Large School Districts.
“This is great news for New Jersey students,” said Cecilia Zalkind, President/CEO of Advocates for Children of New Jersey, a leader of the NJ Food for Thought School Breakfast Campaign. “Without proper nutrition, children struggle in school. We continue to encourage more schools to adopt this very do-able solution to combating childhood hunger.’’
Adele LaTourette, director of the New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition and campaign co-chair, 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. Previously, most schools served breakfast before school when most children had not yet arrived.
“This continued success shows that breakfast after the bell should be part of the morning routine in schools across New Jersey,” LaTourette said. “This year, we will continue to work with districts to bring breakfast after the bell to more schools, especially high schools where participation remains relatively low.’’
The campaign is a partnership among New Jersey anti-hunger, education and health organizations such as New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids. Partners also include state agencies, such as the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, and some advocacy groups. The Food Research Action Center and the American Dairy Association Northeast are the campaign’s national partners.
To learn more about the NJ Food for Thought School Breakfast Campaign, visit njschoolbreakfast.org.