Advocacy group seeks flexibility in N.J. school breakfast program

A child advocacy group is calling for an expansion of New Jersey’s school breakfast program.

Advocates for Children of New Jersey says the state ranks 46th in the nation in providing federally funded school breakfast to disadvantaged students. Schools are serving breakfast to only 28 percent of eligible kids, according to Ceil Zalkind, executive director of the group.

“What we’re hearing from districts in the state that have been more successful at serving school breakfast is that they see better attention on the part of kids, less behavior problems, and ultimately greater educational achievement,” Zalkind said.

Many districts provide breakfast before the start of school. Zalkind, however, is urging education officials adopt a more innovative approach that would allow kids to eat in their classrooms.

Zalkind said some districts offer what’s called “a grab-and-go breakfast” in a bag.

“So it’s a nutritional breakfast in a bag. It’s delivered on a cart to the classroom. The child can eat it at his or her desk while instruction time is going on, clean it up in the bag that’s provided, and throw it in the trash on the way out,” she said.

Advocates for Children of New Jersey wants state Commissioner of Education Christopher Cerf to issue a directive that serving breakfast in the classroom does not count against instructional time.

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