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Nilsa Cruz Perez

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Nilsa Cruz-Perez establishing a “breakfast after the bell” incentive fund cleared the Senate Education Committee today.

The purpose of the bill, S-2168, is to incentivize school districts to start a breakfast program and to select a “breakfast after the bell” model, which is proven to reach more hungry students than schools that fail to enact this program. Currently, New Jersey schools are 23rd in the nation for their participation in the Federal School Breakfast Program.

The Department of Agriculture (NJDA) would work with the Department of Education (DOE), to establish an incentive fund which would provide a 10 cent per breakfast supplement. That would go into an existing federal reimbursements program to school districts that participate in the school breakfast campaign.

“Studies have shown how important it is that our students learn with a full stomach,” said Senator Cruz-Perez (D-Gloucester/Camden). “Breakfast after the bell helps by providing a meal to lower income students who often come to school hungry. This is about making sure no child goes hungry and that initiative starts with breakfast. The schools days start too early and not every kid has access to breakfast. By providing it at schools we can ensure our schools are providing students with the tools to learn.”

The NJDA, in consultation with the DOE, would be required to provide guidance and support to school districts to implement “breakfast after the bell” programs. Under the bill, the departments would be required to prepare and issue an annual report to the Governor and Legislature. This report would include information on the annual cost of the incentive fund and number and percent of students participating in “breakfast after the bell” program for each school district.

Several districts that serve “Breakfast after the Bell” report that students have better academic performance and often experience less disruptive student behavior. There is also evidence that they have fewer trips to the school nurse, and have better overall attendance.

S-2168 cleared the committee 3-0-1 and will next head to the full Senate for further consideration.

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