New Jersey used to come almost last in the nation for the participation rate in its school breakfast program. However, since the 2011 launch of the New Jersey Food for Thought Campaign, a statewide effort to reduce childhood hunger, participation has jumped 65%. That’s according to Adele LaTourette, director of Hunger Free New Jersey, which leads the campaign. In fiscal year 2019, New Jersey schools claimed $110 million in federal funds to feed breakfast to students.
A new report from the Food Research and Action Center examines school breakfast participation trends in 76 of the nation’s large school districts during the 2018–2019 school year. It ranks Newark public schools fifth of those districts nationwide for serving breakfast to the most students at the start of the school day; Newark fed nearly 90% of its students breakfast on any given day during the school year. The top four were Los Angeles Unified School District, California; San Antonio Independent School District, Texas; Newburgh Enlarged City School District, New York and Boise School District in Idaho.
Almost all Newark schools serve breakfast during the regular school day, rather than before school when most students have not yet arrived. Known as “breakfast after the bell,” this method significantly boosts student participation.
“Newark was one the first New Jersey districts to adopt breakfast after the bell many years ago and has been a leader in nourishing their students for years,” said LaTourette. “We commend the district for recognizing that nutrition and learning are inextricably linked. It’s simple. Hungry students struggle to succeed in school.”