Center For Food

-NJ Stalls on School Breakfast

NJAHC calls for breakfast after the bell mandate after new report shows NJ stalled on school breakfast.

A new national report shows New Jersey failed to make significant progress toward serving more low-income students school breakfast, remaining 19th nationally for its participation rate.

The Food Research and Action Center’s (FRAC) School Breakfast Scorecard (link) 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.

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.

“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.’’

Prior to the 2011 launch of the New Jersey Food for Thought Campaign, New Jersey ranked 46th in the nation. Since then, many schools have made breakfast part of the school day – just like lunch. When schools implement this approach, participation skyrockets.

However, over the past year, some schools have scaled back breakfast after the bell, usually when new administrators take the helm of a district, LaTourette said.

“This issue is not enrollment, nor is it money,’’ she explained, noting that these unserved students are already enrolled in the program and federal reimbursements more than cover the cost of breakfast in high-poverty schools.

“The issue is when and how breakfast is served and school leaders who are unwilling to end the long-standing, ineffective practice of serving breakfast before school when students simply are not there,’’ she explained.

NJAHC, along with Advocates for Children of New Jersey, 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.

“It is time for New Jersey to adopt a statewide policy that promotes school breakfast in all high-poverty schools,” LaTourette said.