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Bound Brook and Quinton captured the first place prizes in the NJ Food for Thought School Breakfast Challenge for northern and southern New Jersey, respectively. Both districts significantly increased the number of students eating a healthy morning meal at school.
Both districts will receive a $5,000 grant and a visit from an NFL player. In northern New Jersey, the American Dairy Association and Daily Council is providing the grant and player appearance, while the southern New Jersey prizes are being awarded by the Mid-Atlantic Dairy Council.
All winners will be recognized at an event to be held at the Lafayette School in Bound Brook on Oct. 7, featuring a pep rally with former NFL player Amani Toomer.
New Brunswick and East Newark came in 2nd and 3rd among North/Central Jersey districts, while Folsom and Trenton came in 2nd and 3rd in southern New Jersey, respectively.
Bound Brook’s student participation in the federal School Breakfast Program climbed from just 211 students in September 2013 to 1,402 in May 2014 – a 564 percent increase. According to data from the Departments of Education and Agriculture, Bound Brook is now feeding 82 percent of eligible, low-income children.
Quinton’s student participation in the federal School Breakfast Program rose from 81 students in September 2013 to 129 in May 2014 – a 59 percent increase. According to data from the Departments of Education and Agriculture, Quinton is now feeding 69 percent of its eligible, low-income children.
The other districts also achieved substantial gains.
“This means that more children are getting the morning nutrition they need to concentrate and learn,” said Andrea Thompson, vice-president of School Marketing, American Dairy Association and Dairy Council. “Dairy farmers have a long-standing commitment to child nutrition and we would like to commend the entire Bound Brook school community for this successful effort to address childhood hunger, helping to remove a major barrier to learning.”
The winners achieved this success by simply changing the way the district serves breakfast. Like many New Jersey districts, these districts had served breakfast before school, when children have not yet arrived. They switched to serving breakfast during the first few minutes of the school day in all its schools. Known as “breakfast after the bell,” this approach significantly boosts student participation in the federally-funded School Breakfast Program.
Not only are these districts feeding more children, addressing childhood hunger and overcoming a major barrier to learning, they are also bringing back more federal dollars to feed New Jersey school children. The federal government reimburses states based on how many meals schools serve.
“We recognize that hungry students struggle to learn so it is incumbent on us, as a district, to ensure that all of our students begin their day with a healthy meal,” said Bound Brook Superintendent Dan Gallagher. “We have seen great results with breakfast after the bell. Our students are more focused and ready to learn. This has simply become an important part of our morning routine.”
“We at the Quinton Township School District care about the overall general health of our students,” said Superintendent Margaret Delia. “The research is clear that eating breakfast helps children perform better at school. We have seen great results, including a drop in discipline infractions, which we believe is, in part, due to serving breakfast after the bell.”
The challenge was sponsored by the American Dairy Association and Dairy Council, the Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association, the New Jersey Education Association, Advocates for Children of New Jersey and the NJ Food for Thought School Breakfast Campaign.
Led by Advocates for Children of New Jersey and the New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition, the NJ Food For Thought School Breakfast Campaign is driven by a statewide steering committee that includes the New Jersey Departments of Agriculture, Education and Health, anti-hunger and health groups and New Jersey’s major education associations. The campaign’s national partners are the Food Research and Action Center, the American Dairy Association and Council and the Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association.
The statewide committee is working to build widespread support for school breakfast expansion, as well as assisting local efforts to expand participation.
At the event on Oct. 7, ACNJ will release its 4th annual report on school breakfast in New Jersey.
For more information, visit njschoolbreakfast.org.