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South Jersey school leaders came together today with anti-hunger advocates and state officials to learn how to give more children a healthy meal at the start of their school day.
At the Forging Fresh Ways to Serve School Breakfast Summit, held at Camden County Community College, school officials learned that serving “breakfast after the bell” is the best way to boost New Jersey’s low participation in the federal school breakfast program. While many New Jersey districts continue to serve breakfast before school – when children have not yet arrived – a growing number of districts are adopting this more effective model.
“We know that hungry children struggle to learn,” said keynote speaker Cecilia Zalkind, executive director of Advocates for Children of New Jersey. “New Jersey has longed trailed the nation in providing school breakfast to students. Now, more districts are stepping up to meet the school breakfast challenge. This summit is aimed at providing them with a roadmap on how to accomplish that.”
At the summit, representatives from Vineland, Atlantic City, Burlington Township and Lower Township school districts discussed how they have successfully implemented breakfast after the bell in their schools – and the many benefits they have reaped as a result.
Those benefits include improved academic performance, less disruptive student behavior and increased attendance. School officials also report that giving breakfast to all children – rather than just a few before school — creates a sense of community in schools, which benefits the entire school – students, teachers, principals and parents.
Despite strong evidence of these benefits, New Jersey ranked 46th in the nation for low participation among low-income children in this federally funded program during the 2011-2012 school year, according to the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC)’s School Breakfast Scorecard. The FRAC report found that only 41 percent of low-income New Jersey students who ate school lunch also ate school breakfast. New Jersey is, however, making progress. The state was one of just 10 states to post double-digit gains in student participation.
“All South Jersey schools – and low-income students – would greatly benefit from implementing breakfast after the bell,” said Adele LaTourette, director of New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition, who also spoke at the summit. “This is as much an academic excellence program as it is an anti-hunger program. It’s clear that serving breakfast at the start of the school day is the most successful way to increase participation, and we encourage more schools to move to this model.”
“Breakfast after the bell works. School districts across the country and in New Jersey have seen participation soar when they serve breakfast after school starts,” said Madeleine Levin, senior policy analyst at FRAC. “This campaign is erasing barriers to participation and will lead to more children starting the day with breakfast.”
Led by Advocates for Children of New Jersey and the New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition and supported by the national anti-hunger non-profit Food Research and Action Center, the summit is part of the statewide New Jersey Food for Thought School Breakfast Campaign, which includes child and anti-hunger advocates, state officials, and New Jersey’s major education associations.
The summit is made possible with funding from the ConAgra Foods Foundation, the Walmart Foundation, The Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Community Foundation of New Jersey. In addition to FRAC and ACNJ, the New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids also sponsored the event.
### NJ Food for Thought Campaign Partners
- Advocates for Children of New Jersey
- American Dairy Association & Dairy Council, Inc.
- Food Research and Action Center
- Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association
- NJ Action for Healthy Kids/AtlantiCare
- NJ Anti-Hunger Coalition
- NJ Association of School Administrators
- NJ Charter School Association
- NJ Department of Agriculture
- NJ Department of Education
- NJ Department of Health
- NJ Education Association
- NJ Partnership for Healthy Kids
- NJ Principal and Supervisors Association
- NJ PTA
- NJ School Boards Association
- NJ School Nutrition Association