TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senators Nilsa Cruz-Perez and Shirley Turner establishing a “breakfast after the bell” incentive fund cleared the full Senate 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.
“An early school day means many kids don’t have time to sit at the kitchen table and eat a quality breakfast,” said Senator Cruz-Perez (D-Gloucester/Camden). “However, by providing it at schools we can ensure our students are being provided with the tools to learn; learning goes far beyond books and pencils, we also have to make sure our students have a full stomach. 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.”
“In many of our lower income communities breakfast is not always an option, which can be a challenge to a student’s learning. Breakfast after the bell gives students from low-income families an equal chance to learn and succeed,” said Senator Turner (Hunterdon/Mercer). “The theory behind this bill is simple; students do better in class if they’re not hungry. This bill helps provide our students with the most important meal of the day, which will give their body and their brains the fuel it needs to start learning.”
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 full Senate 24-9 and cleared the Assembly 50-24-2. It now heads to the governor’s desk.