More NJ Kids Getting Breakfast in School
The study also indicated that there is more work to do because hundreds of thousands of students who should be getting breakfast are not.
"Our major takeaway is that the state has made tremendous progress in making sure that eligible children get breakfast in school, and this is very important because there's lots of research that talks about the link between having a nutritious breakfast and being able to pay attention in class, less trips to the nurse," said Cecilia Zalkind, ACNJ executive director.
In October of 2010, 136,000 students were getting breakfast at school. By May of 2014, that number had risen to almost 211,000. The percent of eligible kids taking part in the federally-funded program increased from 30 percent in 2010 to 41 percent in 2014.
"The increase is encouraging, but we're also mindful that there are 300,000 children across the state who are entitled to breakfast and are not getting it," Zalkind explained.
The increase in the number of children getting breakfast in school is linked to the child poverty rate Zalkind said. New census data show a 22 percent increase in the number of kids living in poor families in New Jersey since 2009.
"We've seen child poverty increase since 2008, since the (economic) downturn. The recent census data that came out two weeks ago said that New Jersey is one of only two states, New Jersey and West Virginia that saw an increase in child poverty," Zalkind said.
The report found 50 high-poverty districts that are serving breakfast to 30 percent or fewer of their eligible students. Those are the districts Zalkind said she is focused on with a clear message that the program known as "Breakfast After the Bell," is funded with federal dollars.
"This is not hard to do. You can do this," Zalkind said. "This is an easy process that'll benefit kids. It'll benefit school your school."