Breakfast After the Bell Expansion Legislation Unveiled

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Lawmakers on November 21 announced an anti-hunger initiative to expand New Jersey’s participation in the Breakfast After the Bell school program for low-income children.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Sens. Teresa Ruiz and Ray Lesniak, along with Assemblyman Adam Taliaferro are sponsoring a bill calling for the establishment of a $400,000 fund to help schools implement the federal program, which provides breakfast to students who qualify for free or reduced-price school meals.

Under the proposal, the Legislature will appropriate $400,000 through the budget process to the “Nourishing Young Minds Initiative Fund” to help defray the costs of effectively implementing the federal school breakfast and summer meals programs in high-poverty communities.  The fund would also seek to leverage federal dollars.  Dollars would be earmarked for startup or expansion costs associated with serving breakfast after the bell and summer meals, under the legislative proposal.

The Food for Thought Campaign, a coalition of anti-hunger, health, nutrition and child advocates, have worked closely with the New Jersey Department of Agriculture to help schools and municipalities provide breakfast and summer meals to children.   The partnership, which includes NJPSA, has resulted in a 77 percent increase in the number of low-income students eating breakfast at school since 2010 – the year before the campaign launched, according to ACNJ’s report.

In 2010, more than 135,800 New Jersey students participated in the Breakfast After the Bell program. That number has increased to nearly 240,600 this year, but an estimated 302,000 students who qualify still aren’t participating, advocates said.    This growth was largely the result of more schools serving breakfast after the bell, typically in the classroom during the first few minutes of the school day.