After-the-Bell Breakfast for Low-Income New Jersey Schools Now RequiredLast Edited:
Experts say students who arrive at school hungry may struggle to learn and for that reason, Atlantic City public schools have been providing breakfast to their students for the last 15 years.
"Every home is different, every demographic is different," said Jason Avant, former Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver, child-hunger advocate and partner of the American Dairy Association North East. "Some kids, some schools and some districts can’t afford breakfast, can’t afford food."
According to Advocates for Children of New Jersey, over a half a million children in New Jersey live within families who struggle to put food on the table. More than half of those kids receive their primary nutrition at school, said a Feeding America study.
“Schools providing breakfast is huge and it’s going to make us as a community, better, and it’s going to create kids that’s hungry for education and also more skilled and also more aware, better thinkers," said Avant.
“If students aren’t focused, if they’re not engaged, and they’re hungry, you’re really not going to have that engaged learner. So, it’s important to have that student well-nourished and ready to go," said Barry Caldwell, Atlantic City School District superintendent.
A newly required after-the-bell-breakfast program for all New Jersey schools with at least 70-percent of students eligible for free or reduced lunch may be able to make all the difference.
“Here in Atlantic City, we’ve had an after-the-bell breakfast program for roughly 15 years," said Caldwell. "It’s important for us as a school district to take care of our students with respect to their nutritional wellness.”
Hunger-Free New Jersey, formerly known as The New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition, explained that since 2011, many schools have switched to serving breakfast after the bell rather than the long-standing practice of before the bell, when most students haven’t even arrived yet.
Sponsors of the program, as well as Atlantic City School District staff, have been able to prove that this has already been able to help reach more students who need the morning boost.
“This is something that we’re committed to and it takes a full commitment from the teaching staff to the building administrative staff, and of course the administrators, but again, we’re committed to it," said Caldwell. "We’ve been doing it for 15 years, and we’ve been ahead of the curve, but we’re willing to be the model of excellence.”
Unfortunately, over the years, many New Jersey schools remained unwilling to change over to after-the-bell breakfast even with its proven success.
With the new law signed back in May 2018, all New Jersey schools within the low-income range will need to implement the federally funded breakfast schedule by the beginning of the 2019–2020 school year.
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