Fewer N.J. schools providing breakfast to kids in need

(Nick Ut/AP Photo, file)

(Nick Ut/AP Photo, file)

After six years of increases, participation in the school breakfast program in New Jersey fell by 2 percent this year.

Some schools are backing away from serving breakfast in the classroom during the first few minutes of the school day, said Cecilia Zalkind, president of Advocates for Children of New Jersey.

“There are leadership changes. There are people who have this perception that it’s too difficult to do that. And our experience is this is it,” she said. “This is the way to reach the most kids.”

More than 300,000 children in low-income families are not getting the nutrition at school they need to help them pay attention and reduce behavioral problems, Zalkind said.

“Not only are they not reaching enough children, they’re leaving federal money on the table that does not come to New Jersey,” she said. “So this is an issue where they can bring money into their district if they’re actually more effective at serving kids.”

Zalkind is hopeful schools will expand participation in the school breakfast program.

“It’s been very helpful to link a food service director in a district that’s serving breakfast after the bell with a district that is not making progress, or doesn’t think they can do breakfast after the bell, or have decided it’s too much work,” she said. “They can share their experience and do some problem solving. I think that’s what it’s going to come down to.”

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