NJ Districts Challenged on School Breakfast

April 23, 2013

Contact: Nancy Parello, Communications Director, Advocates for Children of New Jersey, (973) 643-3876, (908) 399-6031 (cell), nparello@acnj.org

New Jersey school districts are being challenged to increase the number of students eating a healthy breakfast at school, giving them the fuel they need to concentrate and learn.

The NJ School Breakfast Challenge will award grants to six districts to buy school breakfast equipment. In addition, the two top districts – one from North Jersey and one from South Jersey — will earn a visit from an NFL player.

“New Jersey has a long way to go to catch up to other states when it comes to ensuring that all students start their school day with a healthy breakfast that can help them succeed in school,” said Cecilia Zalkind, executive director of Advocates for Children of New Jersey, a leader of the NJ Food for Thought School Breakfast Campaign. “In fact, New Jersey is nearly last in the nation for its low school breakfast participation.”

According to data from the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, just 12 percent of New Jersey school districts that serve breakfast provide it during the first few minutes of the school day. Known as breakfast after the bell, this method is most effective to ensure that students begin their school day with a healthy meal that can help them succeed in school.

The vast majority of New Jersey districts continue to serve breakfast before school – when children have not yet arrived. This ineffective method means that most low-income children do not receive school breakfast, Zalkind said.

One in five children face hunger. Feeding students school breakfast improves attendance, math scores and graduation rates, according to recent studies from Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign.


  Method of Breakfast Service Number of Districts Percent of Districts
  Before the bell 406 77
  After the bell 62 12
  Both before and after the bell 57 11
  Total 525 100

The New Jersey School Breakfast Challenge is being sponsored by the American Dairy Association, Advocates for Children of New Jersey, the New Jersey Departments of Agriculture and Education, the NJ Education Association, the NJ Food for Thought School Breakfast Campaign and the Mid-Atlantic Dairy Council. The departments of education and agriculture sent a letter to all school districts this week, urging them to take part in the challenge, state officials said.

“The American Dairy Association stands ready to assist districts in meeting this challenge,” said Vice President of School Marketing Andrea Thompson. “We know that when children have a healthy meal at school, they are much more likely to succeed academically. When schools meet the school breakfast challenge, everyone wins – students, parents, teachers and the entire school community.”
“We expect to see sharp increases in the number of school districts serving breakfast after the bell, as more and more school officials realize that they have to change this ineffective practice of serving breakfast before school,” Zalkind added.

Districts like Harrison, Woodbury City, West New York, Little Egg Harbor, Bayonne, Edison, North Plainfield and Garfield, among others, have all recently switched to serving breakfast after the bell in all or most of their schools. Officials in these districts report that, once implemented, breakfast after the bell quickly becomes a natural part of the morning routine.

The NJ School Breakfast Challenge will award three winners in North Jersey and three in South Jersey based on the highest percentage increase in student participation in the federal School Breakfast Program. The winning districts will receive:

» 1st place: $5,000 food service equipment grant and NFL player visit/pep rally

» 2nd place: $2,000 food service equipment grant to sustain breakfast service

» 3rd place: $1,000 food service equipment grant to sustain breakfast service

The contest will run from September 2013 to May 2014. Winners will be announced in the fall 2014. Districts must enter no later than Oct. 31, 2013.

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 New Jersey anti-hunger, education and health organizations, state agencies, child advocates and national organizations.

For more information, visit www.njschoolbreakfast.org.