A growing number of New Jersey students are starting their learning day with a healthy breakfast. The state advanced to 19th place nationally, up from 23rd last year, as the number of low-income students receiving a healthy “Breakfast After the Bell” in school increased, according to a new national report.

The Food Research and Action Center’s (FRAC) School Breakfast Scorecard recently found that New Jersey’s participation rate rose 6 percent. In 2015- 2016, nearly 59 percent of low-income students who ate lunch at school also received breakfast. The successful “Breakfast After the Bell” program, which provides the meal after the start of the school day, is a key reason.

Prior to the 2011 launch of the NJ Food for Thought Campaign, the state ranked nearly last in the nation in providing breakfast to schoolchildren. The New Jersey School Boards Association has been a member of the campaign since the beginning of the launch.

As part of the increasing effort to improve student nutrition, state Senators Steve Sweeney and Ray Lesniak have put forward a bill to create a non-lapsing revolving fund in the Department of Agriculture, to be known as the “Nourishing Young Minds Initiative Fund.” It would allocate federal and state funds to increase participation in the Breakfast After the Bell program.