More New Jersey children are receiving school breakfast and summer meals sites are expanding across the state, but much more work remains before all children are receiving the nutrition they need to learn, grow and be healthy, according to a new report from Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ).
The latest report continues to track New Jersey’s progress on school breakfast, documenting a 77 percent increase in student participation since 2010 — the year before the launch of the New Jersey Food for Thought School Breakfast Campaign, of which New Jersey Principals & Supervisors (NJPSA) is a member.
Not only has this progress meant more students start their school day with the nutrition they need to concentrate and learn, schools have also doubled the federal dollars they receive to provide breakfast, jumping from $48 million in FY 2011 to an estimated $98 million in FY 2017, according to state budget figures.
There are also signs that more children are receiving summer meals, with a 21 percent jump in meal sites, rising from 1,100 in 2015 to 1,350 in 2016, according to preliminary data from the New Jersey Department of Agriculture.
Despite this progress, 300,000 New Jersey children are still missing out on school breakfast. More children could also be receiving summer and afterschool meals if communities worked together to tap into federal child nutrition programs, the report said. That is partially because more children are eligible for free or low-cost school meals, with that number rising 21 percent since 2010 – a clear indication that many more families struggle to put food on the table. Some counties fare better than others. In rankings also released, Passaic County was top in the state for its high participation in school breakfast, while Hunterdon ranked last.
When ACNJ released its first school breakfast report five years ago, New Jersey was nearly last in the nation for its low number of at-risk children who received school breakfast. Today, New Jersey ranks 23rd nationally, thanks in large part to the efforts of the New Jersey Food for Thought School Breakfast Campaign, a partnership of advocates, state agencies and national organizations.