New Jersey achieved the greatest rise in the nation in the percentage of low-income students eating breakfast at school, according to a national report recently released. This means that more children are beginning their school day with the nutrition they need to concentrate and learn.

The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) found that New Jersey’s participation rate jumped nearly 13 percent from the 2012-2013 to the 2013-2014 school year. The state now ranks 28th in the nation for breakfast participation – up from 37th last year and 46th a few years ago. The average national increase was about 3 percent.

The “Breakfast after the Bell” program is the focus of FRAC. The program allows students to eat breakfast in their first period class for approximately 10 minutes each day. Districts in which a majority of students qualify for free and reduced-cost lunches are encouraged to pilot the program. The federal reimbursement for these students helps sustain the program without having to deplete district funds. School breakfast is one of the most effective anti-hunger programs available.

The New Jersey Food for Thought Campaign was launched in 2011. The campaign is a partnership among New Jersey anti-hunger, education and health organizations, state agencies and child advocates. The Food Research Action Center, the American Dairy Association and Council and the Mid-Atlantic Dairy Council are the campaign’s national partners.

Prior to the launch of the campaign, New Jersey historically ranked nearly last in the nation for its low student participation in school breakfast. According to FRAC’s report, New Jersey schools are now serving nearly 51 percent of low-income children who also eat lunch at school. The goal is to serve 70 percent of these students. There are approximately 300,000 low-income students who are still missing out on breakfast in New Jersey.

The campaign urges school leaders who haven’t done so yet, to consider this simple change in the way they serve breakfast. Everyone wins when kids eat breakfast. New Jersey School Boards is proud to be a part of this group and has assisted in the increase in district participation.

To learn more about the campaign, visit the New Jersey School Breakfast Campaign website, or contact Sharon Seyler at[email protected].