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New Jersey’s School Breakfast Participation Could Be Better [AUDIO]

There is a lot of good news in the Advocates for Children Of New Jersey’s (ACNJ) 2nd annual School Breakfast report.

School Breakfast
Flickr User USDAgov

There’s a 21% increase in the number of children from low-income families receiving breakfast at school resulting in 28,000 more children getting a healthy morning meal each school day and schools are serving an estimated 5 million more meals over the course of the school year. There’s some bad news too. Just over a third of eligible kids are getting breakfast at school.

Advocates for Children of New Jersey executive director Cecilia Zalkind says the 21% increase, “Is news to celebrate, but we’re still serving only 35% of children who are eligible for school breakfast….There are 471,000 children eligible for free or reduced price breakfast and just 35% of kids received it in March 2012…That leaves a lot of room for improvement.”

ACNJ’s report spotlighted “breakfast champions” – the 20 districts with high concentrations of poor children that are serving the highest percentage of eligible students. The average participation rate in these 20 districts was 72% in March 2012 – more than double the state average of 35%.”

Zalkind explains, “There’s no state contribution. It’s fully funded federally and we’re turning back money because we’re not serving all children who are eligible……It’s not a question of money. It’s not a question of understanding it’s a good idea. It’s just dealing with the logistics of when to serve it, where to serve it and how to clean it up.”

If other school districts have found the answer to these questions, Zalkind feels every district can too.

She says, “We urge school leaders — superintendents, school boards, principals and teachers — to follow the lead of our breakfast champions and step up to meet the school breakfast challenge.”

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