The number and percentage of students getting breakfast at school rose again last year, according to Advocates for Children of New Jersey’s fifth annual Food for Thought school breakfast report.
In the 2014-2015 school year, more than 271,000 students ate breakfast at school, with 237,000 of them qualifying for either a free or reduced-price meal due to their low income, the report found. That means 44 percent of the 533,000 students eligible for a fee or low-cost breakfast got it, an increase of about 26,000 students and a 3 percentage point bump in the participation rate.
ACNJ attributes much of the increases to more schools embracing the Breakfast After the Bell program, which provides a healthy breakfast after school has begun, when everyone is present, rather than before school. Research shows that children who eat breakfast do better academically, are less disruptive and make fewer trips to the nurse’s office. The program has also been found to increase student attendance, reduce tardiness, and decrease childhood obesity.
The Food for Thought report singles out “Breakfast Champions,” the districts with the largest percentage of students getting their morning meal at school. All the champions are districts where more than half the students are eligible for free or reduced-price breakfast. Here are the top 10:
1. Woodbine, Cape May County
This was the only district with a perfect score — all 127 eligible students received breakfast last year. A single K-8 school district, 70 percent of its total enrollment was eligible.
2. (tied) Greater Brunswick Charter School, Middlesex County
Located in New Brunswick, this K-8 K school served breakfast to 94 percent of eligible students — 296 out of 315. Some 83 percent of the total enrollment was eligible.
2. (tied) Kipp Cooper Norcross Academy at Lanning Square, Camden County
Almost all elementary students attending this school in the city of Camden were eligible for breakfast, and 94 percent of those eligible — 96 students — got it.
4. Paterson, Passaic County
This K-12 district in New Jersey’s third-largest city is the first district on the list where the entire student body — nearly 25,000 — was eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. Paterson served 93 percent of students, or more than 23,000, by far the largest number on the list.
5. (tied) Montague, Sussex County
This elementary district in the extreme northwestern tip of the state served 92 percent of eligible students or a total of 110. Its eligibility rate of 55 percent is the lowest on the list.
5. (tied) Salem, Salem County
A K-12 district in South Jersey along the Delaware River, Salem served 92 percent of the 888 eligible students. Three -quarters of students were eligible.
7. (tied) Egg Harbor City in Atlantic County
This K-12 district near Atlantic City served nine of 10 eligible students breakfast. About 77 percent of those enrolled, or 389 pupils, met the income requirements.
7. (tied) Paulsboro, Gloucester County
Ninety percent of students in this Delaware River K-12 district got breakfast, for a total of 663 served. About 64 percent of the student body was eligible.
9. Atlantic City, Atlantic County
Nine of 10 students in this resort city were eligible for breakfast and 88 percent, or 5,790, received their morning meal in school.
10. (tied) Camden Community Charter School, Camden County
This elementary charter in the city of Camden served 86 percent of students eligible, or 327 in total. Nearly all the pupils were eligible.
10. (tied) Discovery Charter School, Essex County
All 74 students in grades 4 through 8 were eligible for lunch, and the district served 64 of them, or 86 percent of all eligible students.