Legislation, A-679 / A-2186 / S-1879 (Cryan, Benson, Singleton, Lampitt, Riley, Pinkin, Turner, Beach), which encourages schools to establish "breakfast after the bell" programs in school districts, participating in the federal school breakfast program was signed into law November 13.
Under the provisions of the new law, the Department of Agriculture, in conjunction with the Department of Education, would:
- make every effort to assist, guide, and support school districts, public schools, or nonpublic schools in planning, establishing, implementing, or modifying the “breakfast after the bell” program to increase the participation rate of all students in the school breakfast program, especially students from low-income families; and
- prepare and issue an annual report to the Governor and the Legislature on the number and percentage of students from low-income families participating in the school breakfast program and the format used for providing breakfast, for each school district, public school, or nonpublic school.
Currently, school districts must offer breakfast if 20 percent or more of their students qualify for free or reduced meals under the federal School Lunch Program. Unfortunately, many kids do not choose to partake of breakfast for a myriad of reasons, including disinterest in breakfast at early hours, the stigma of participation and tight scheduling options which make it difficult for a student to fully enjoy breakfast. The Breakfast After the Bell options allows districts to offer breakfast as part of the home room setting or even as a grab and go option as kids enter school buildings.
Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ)’s Food for Thought Campaign has focused on increasing school breakfast participation via the Breakfast After the Bell modality. Their works has increased breakfast participation in many of our neediest schools in just several years.
New census data shows that the number of low-income New Jersey children has grown 19 percent in the past five years, which means that more children are likely arriving in the classroom hungry. ACNJ's third annual New Jersey School Breakfast Report identified "breakfast after the bell" as an effective and successful approach to significantly boost student participation in the federal school breakfast program. According to the report, if New Jersey schools fed all eligible children, schools would receive an estimated $85 million more in federal funds to feed hungry children.
NJPSA supported this legislation as it encourages, rather than mandates, schools to consider the program option. NJPSA is a partner of ACNJ’s Food for Thought Campaign.