Press Release: Advocates for Children of New Jersey
New Jersey was one of just 10 states to achieve a double-digit increase in the number of children receiving a healthy breakfast at school, according to a national report released today.
While the state still ranks a concerning 46th nationally, New Jersey school districts are finally making progress toward ensuring more children receive school breakfast, which can help students succeed in school.
This is being accomplished with more schools serving breakfast in the first few minutes of the school day, instead of the traditional method of serving breakfast before school when most children have not yet arrived. Known as “breakfast after the bell,” this approach significantly increases student participation.
“More New Jersey children are starting their school day with the nutrition they need to concentrate and learn,” said Cecilia Zalkind, executive director of Advocates for Children of New Jersey, which co-chairs the NJ Food for Thought School Breakfast Campaign. “In general, this is being accomplished without spending additional local or state tax dollars, significantly leveraging the substantial investment we make in public education.”
“It is gratifying to see this finally turning around for New Jersey students,” said Adele LaTourette, director of the Anti-Hunger Coalition and co-chair of the NJ Food for Thought School Breakfast Campaign. “School officials are finding that it is entirely do-able to serve breakfast after the bell and that this approach benefits everyone – students, parents, teachers, principals and the entire school community.”
According to the report from the Food Research Action Center (FRAC), based in Washington D.C., New Jersey’s school breakfast participation rose 16.3 percent from the 2010-11 to 2011-12 school years. The organization calculates student participation as a percent of the number of children who also receive free- or reduced-price school lunch. By that measure, 41 percent of New Jersey students participated in the federal School Breakfast Program in 2011-12, up from roughly 38 percent the year before.
Much of this progress can be credited to the NJ Food for Thought Campaign, which was launched in September 2011 when Advocates for Children of New Jersey released its first school breakfast report. The campaign is now driven by a statewide committee that includes all of New Jersey’s major education groups, the state Departments of Agriculture, Health and Education, anti-hunger and health organizations and child advocates.
In addition to raising awareness of the issue on a statewide basis, the campaign is working with school communities across the state to help them meet the logistical challenges of changing the way they serve breakfast.
Despite the progress, New Jersey still has a long way to go. If 70 percent of eligible students who eat school lunch also receive breakfast, the state would claim about $31 million more in federal reimbursements, according to FRAC’s report. Those funds would feed an additional 126,500 children each and every school day, the report said.
“New Jersey can rise to the top of the school breakfast ranks,” Zalkind said. “All it takes is for school communities to come together and decide to serve breakfast in a way that is better for kids.”
“Districts uniformly report that once they work out the logistics, breakfast after the bell becomes part of the daily routine,” added LaTourette.
In a companion report on school breakfast in urban areas, Newark again earned the #1 rank for its high student participation. Newark is the only large urban New Jersey district to serve breakfast in the classroom to all of its students.
“Other large urban districts, especially Jersey City and Paterson, should follow Newark’s lead,” Zalkind said. “In these districts alone, tens of thousands of children are missing out on a healthy morning meal that can help them succeed in school.”
Contact: Nancy Parello, (973) 643-3876, (908) 399-6031, firstname.lastname@example.org