Center For Food

-School breakfast legislation advancing

Legislation aimed at giving more kids school breakfast is set for a legislative hearing Feb. 22

Calling all advocates! Come to Trenton to speak in support of expanding school breakfast to more low-income children. S- S-1894/A-3506 would require schools with at least 70 percent of eligible students to serve breakfast after the bell.
Hearing Details: Senate Education Committee, Committee Room 6, 1st Floor, State House Annex, 125 W. State Street, Trenton

More Info
Serving breakfast before school causes extremely low student participation for the simple reason that students have not yet arrived at school.

Making breakfast part of the school day – just like lunch – is the only effective way to deliver the meal to the hundreds of thousands of New Jersey children who need this morning nutrition to be focused and ready to learn.

Ample evidence of the effectiveness of breakfast after the bell exists in districts across New Jersey. Over the past six years, many districts have switched from offering breakfast before school to serving breakfast after the bell. They report the same results. Participation soars. Students are ready to concentrate and learn. There are fewer trips to the school nurse, fewer classroom disruptions. Attendance improves.

And, millions more in federal dollars flow into schools to combat childhood hunger, removing a major barrier to learning, while improving the quality of food all students eat in school.

Sadly, many districts remain stubbornly resistant to making this change – despite ample evidence that breakfast after the bell is a doable, common-sense approach to increasing participation and improving students’ chance for school success.

After years of making significant gains on school breakfast, New Jersey is now 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 (ACNJ) analysis of state data.

The issue is NOT enrollment. Children are already enrolled and eligible for this federally-funded child nutrition.

The issue is NOT money. In high-poverty schools, federal per-meal reimbursements cover the cost of school breakfast, while pumping additional funds into school meals programs to build kitchens, upgrade cafeterias, buy new equipment, hire staff and improve the food schools serve to students.

The issue is when breakfast is served — and school leaders unwilling to end the long-standing, ineffective practice of serving breakfast before school when stigma and schedules conspire to keep breakfast from reaching students who would benefit from this morning nutrition.


What would this legislation do? 
New Jersey law already requires districts with 20 percent of eligible students to maintain a school breakfast program. Under S-1894/A-3506, high-poverty schools – those with at least 70 percent low-income children — would be required to provide breakfast after the bell.

School leaders would be able to decide which method of service works best in their schools – classroom breakfast, grab-n-go or “second chance” in which a breakfast break is held mid-morning, an approach that works well in many high schools.


Who would benefit from this legislation?
According to ACNJ’s analysis of New Jersey Department of Agriculture data, this initiative would benefit an estimated 502 schools that collectively educate more than 308,000 students.

Nearly all of these students live in families that qualify for free or low-cost school meals. These children are already enrolled in the breakfast program. Yet, just over half receive breakfast at school because of when the meal is served. That means nearly 150,000 low-income students in these schools are missing out on this morning nutrition.


Who pays for school breakfast?
The federal government reimburses districts for each meal served. When participation increases, so do federal dollars claimed. In fact, from FY 2010 to FY 2018, New Jersey schools collected $59 million more in federal funds because more students were being fed, for a total of $105 million estimated for FY 2018.

Most high-poverty schools can cover the full cost of free breakfast – and still have surplus funds to improve other aspects of their food service. This legislation, when enacted, has the potential to bring up to $43 million into New Jersey schools to feed children.

Each year, New Jersey spends billions of dollars on public education. Yet, when children arrive in the classroom hungry, they struggle to learn. This change will leverage our significant investment in education, improve school success for thousands of low-income children and ensure New Jersey claims more of the dollars it already sends to Washington D.C.

It is time that all New Jersey school leaders recognize that proper nutrition is as important to academic success as good teachers, strong curriculum and effective school leadership.

For more information, contact Adele LaTourette, director, New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition,alatourette@cfanj.org, Cecilia Zalkind, president & CEO, Advocates for Children of New Jersey, czalkind@acnj.org, Nancy Parello, nancy@parellocomm.com