The growth of New Jersey's school breakfast program in Brick Township draws state and U.S. agriculture officials to the township as they mark National School Breakfast Week.

Midstreams Elementary students and food service worker Kim Petillon (NJ Dept. of Agriculture)

Lake Riviera Middle School and Midstreams Elementary welcomed John Gallagher, acting Branch Chief of USDA's School Nutrition Program, along with New Jersey Assistant Education Commissioner Sue Martz and NJDA Nutrition Director Rose Tricario this morning.

State officials say that the Brick school district's participation in Breakfast After The Bell has risen markedly, from about 800 students in the 2012-2013 academic year to more than 1,700 students now.

That growth reflects New Jersey's overall increased participation. The 2015-2016 Food Research and Action Center School Breakfast Scorecard places New Jersey 19th among U.S. states that have augmented the number of low-income students getting nourishment in the mornings through the School Breakfast Program.

The officials observed students browsing breakfast choices including fruit juice, varieties of milk, fresh fruit, whole-grain muffins, waffles, pancakes, granola bars and bagels.

"Serving breakfast in the classroom means more students eating this important meal each morning," Tricario said in prepared comments.

"We applaud Brick Township's success in making breakfast accessible to more students and urge other districts to strive for the kind of progress that has been made here."

"Starting each day off with a balanced breakfast gives kids the energy and nutrition they need to learn and grow throughout the school day," said USDA Regional Administrator Patricia Dombroski.

"Their ability to achieve in the classroom depends on their access to healthy meals each morning. By ensuring that this basic need is met each and every school day, USDA is tackling hunger head on, and, ultimately, strengthening the future of America."

"Consuming a healthy breakfast in the classroom helps students focus on the many tasks they have during a day," said Jeanine Richardson, the Manager of Food and Nutrition for Brick Township School District. "It's important for them academically as well as socially to not have to worry about where they are getting breakfast."

State officials said that the number of Garden State students in school breakfast programs reached 302,120 in 2015-16, an increase of more than 23,000 from the previous year, and that the state ranks 23rd in the US for participation, compared to 48th in 2011.

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