Community Foundation of New Jersey

Breakfast Before the Bell: Making a Difference

February 11, 2013

Breakfast. Everyone knows it’s the most important meal of the day. And that’s especially true for school kids. Young people are just like adults when it comes to feeling better, thinking more clearly, and behaving more kindly on a full stomach.

Recently, breakfast has made a comeback in New Jersey schools. Feeding kids first thing in the morning boosts performance, gives the school nurse a break, and positions the state to claim federal reimbursements annually. In short, serving breakfast in schools is a no-brainer.

What initially prompted CFNJ to team up with Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ) were the numbers:

  • 300,000 low-income students in New Jersey beginning the day thinking more about their hunger than reading, writing or arithmetic.
  • New Jersey’s ranking 48th in the U.S. for failing to provide breakfast for students in need
  • Only 130,000 out of 400,000 kids who met school breakfast eligibility requirements actually receiving breakfast in 2010 – 2011.
  • New Jersey’s loss of more than $22 million in federal reimbursements each year because schools fail to serve breakfast to 60 percent of the state’s needy children.

We knew that New Jersey could do a lot better, and that New Jersey’s kids deserve every opportunity to succeed in school.

Work is underway toward ensuring that all kids receive a nutritious breakfast at the beginning of each school day. CFNJ’s coordinated efforts with ACNJ have already yielded considerable progress with initiatives like “breakfast after the bell” which allow students to eat in class while teachers take attendance and manage administrative tasks. In order to help schools implement school breakfast programs, ACNJ convenes monthly meetings of the NJ Food for Though School Breakfast Campaign Committee to engage committee members in various activities, including development of South Jersey School Breakfast Summit and a Statewide School Breakfast Challenge. In order to encourage more districts to improve breakfast policies, ACNJ also provides multimedia toolkits to help schools easily overcome implementation challenges.

​ Now, for the first time, New Jersey ranks in the top 10 states nationwide for double-digit gains in school breakfast participation, according to the Food Research and Action’s annual 2013 school breakfast report. But there is still a lot of work to be done. The state ranks 46th in the U.S. for school breakfast programs, which is a meager improvement over its previous rank of 48th. That’s why ACNJ continues to identify opportunities and challenges for piloting breakfast programs in high-need, low participation districts in 2013, with plans for expansion and greater advocacy throughout the state.

While much remains to be done, more NJ students are benefiting from the simple connection between breakfast and success.  To help provide school breakfast in your community, contact CFNJ at 973-267-5533 or click here to access your fund and make a grant.