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NJ schools feeding children breakfast during class

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NEW JERSEY (MYFOXNY.COM) -

A big jump in the number of students eating free breakfasts at New Jersey public schools is being attributed to waiting until after school begins to feed them.

A new Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ) report says that the number of students getting a free morning meal at school jumped 48,000 in the past few years to nearly 184,000.

As a result of this increase, districts are expected to collect $10 million more in federal reimbursements this year alone, according to the state budget.

ACNJ says the increase in breakfast participation is largely the result of more districts changing the way they serve breakfast.

Traditionally, New Jersey schools have served breakfast before school hours.

Now, a growing number of schools are serving breakfast during the first few minutes of the school day. Known as “breakfast after the bell,” this approach significantly boosts student participation in the federal School Breakfast Program.

Two years ago, Edison Superintendent Richard O’Malley started the switch from serving breakfast before school to breakfast after the bell. Prior to making this change, less than 1 percent of eligible Edison students were receiving that breakfast. Now, the district is serving more than 70 percent of eligible students.

O’Malley said the increase in federal meal reimbursements has covered the cost of providing breakfast to students.

“It is working exceptionally well,” O’Malley said. “Everyone has bought into this – teachers, principals, custodial staff, parents. I hear from parents all the time who are so pleased that they have this option.”

The group claims that 320,000 children are eligible for free lunches are still missing out across the state because of districts that continue to serve breakfast before school.

“And the need is growing,” Cecilia Zalkind, executive director of Advocates for Children of New Jersey said. “New census data show that the number of low-income New Jersey children has grown 19 percent in the past five years. That’s means more children are likely arriving in the classroom hungry.”

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