School breakfast participation dips

There’s a bit of bad news on the school breakfast front.

Our annual school breakfast report, released Dec. 12, documented a 2 percent decline in the number of New Jersey children who ate breakfast at school in April 2017 compared to the year before.

After several years of double-digit increases, this was very disappointing for us and our many partners on the New Jersey Food for Thought Campaign.

Why the decline?

Most likely because we saw decreases in many large urban districts that had implemented breakfast after the bell. This method of service is most effective in reaching children because the meal is offered to all students at the same time – much like school lunch.

But it appears that these districts are now scaling back their breakfast after the bell programs, while others remain incredibly resistant to making the change all.

Without a healthy meal at the start of the school day, many students will struggle to concentrate and learn. So we’re asking for help from our colleagues and partners across the state.

Go to njfoodforthought.org and click on the school breakfast report. This will take you to a page where you can find data for your local schools. Use this data and other information on our website to advocate for breakfast in your own backyard.

Breakfast after the bell is very doable, but school leaders must have the will to embrace it. And that’s where local advocates come in – by bringing this issue to the attention of school boards, superintendents, parents and others in the school community.

Implementing breakfast after the bell is not a question of money. Federal reimbursements cover the cost of feeding breakfast to students. It’s really about changing the way things have always been done. Instead of serving breakfast in the cafeteria before school – when most students have not yet arrived — the morning meal must be offered to all students during the first few minutes of the school day.

So please become a breakfast champion! Use the breakfast data we publish to make sure students in your area are getting the nutrition they need to concentrate, learn and succeed in school.

Questions or comments? Contact Nancy Parello at nparello@acnj.org.

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