New Jersey ranked 23rd in the nation in 2014-15 in the percentage of low-income students who receive a healthy breakfast in school each day, according to a national survey released recently. Eating a healthy morning meal is crucial, as it gives students the nutrition they need to concentrate and learn.

The Food Research and Action Center’s (FRAC) School Breakfast Scorecard found that New Jersey’s participation rate in school breakfast jumped 11 percent from the 2013-14 to the 2014-15 school years. In 2014-15, 55.3 percent of low-income students who ate lunch at school also received breakfast. Only three other states, Arizona, Delaware and West Virginia, achieved higher increases.

New Jersey ranked 28th last year and 46th in 2011, prior to the launch of the NJ Food for Thought School Breakfast Campaign, which has been credited with fueling the increase in school breakfast participation.

The rise in participation has to do with more schools serving breakfast during the first few minutes of the school day, a practice known as “breakfast after the bell.” This approach has significantly increased student participation in this federally-funded child nutrition program. Federal funding for the program is based on the number of meals served.According to the FY 2016 state budget, New Jersey districts are expected to collect $92 million in federal reimbursements – $45 million more than in state fiscal year 2011. This success shows that breakfast after the bell is doable and should be part of the morning routine in schools across New Jersey.

The campaign is a partnership among New Jersey anti-hunger, education and health organizations, a growing number of advocacy organization, and state agencies, including the New Jersey Department of Agriculture. The Food Research Action Center, the American Dairy Association and Council and the Mid-Atlantic Dairy Council are the campaign’s national partners. New Jersey School Boards Association is a member of the campaign.

Learn more about the NJ Food for Thought School Breakfast campaign.