In 2018, New Jersey passed a law requiring all schools with at least 70% of students eligible for free or low-cost school meals to serve breakfast after the bell, beginning no later than September 2019. These meals are federally funded under the National School Breakfast Program.
It turns out, however, that New Jersey schools served breakfast to fewer students after the law went into effect, indicating that many schools were not abiding by the mandate, according to a new report by the Food Research & Action Center. Even before school closures due to the coronavirus pandemic, there was an 8% drop in the number of schools in the state serving free or reduced-priced breakfast to eligible students on an average day from September through February of the 2019-2020 school year. As a result, New Jersey dropped in national rankings for participation in the School Breakfast Program from 21st to 25th.
Adele LaTourette, director of Hunger Free New Jersey, said, “COVID-19 has caused alarming spikes in childhood hunger in New Jersey and across the country … As schools begin formulating re-opening plans, it is imperative that breakfast after the bell be a top priority.” She called on the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, which administers the program on the state level, to work with the New Jersey Department of Education to enforce the legislative mandate.