Although almost a third of students in the Berkeley Township school district are enrolled in the federal school breakfast program, many more are not taking advantage of the program, according to a study by Advocates for Children in New Jersey.
The K-6 district, which consists of four schools, - has 670 students, or 33 percent, who are eligible for the free or reduced-priced breakfast program. Of that amount 453 students are not participating, the study found.
State law mandates that all school districts where more than 20 percent of students are eligible for the program must offer breakfast.
The study examined data of eligible school districts from around the state. New Jersey ranks 46th nationwide for participants in the school breakfast program, according to the study.
"School breakfast addresses a major barrier
to learning," said Cecilia Zalkind, executive director of ACNJ, in a statement. "School districts should be commended
for stepping up to meet the school breakfast challenge.
is much work to do."
Zelkin said U.S. Census data showed that the number of low-income New Jersey children has grown 19 percent
in the past five years, meaning more children that ever could be eligible.
free and reduced meal program itself is funded by the federal
government and administered by the state Department of Agriculture. If
every Berkeley student eligible for the program took
advantage of it, the district would be reimbursed $118,597, according to
County-wide, 34 percent of
eligible students take advantage of the program. In Stafford, 40 percent
of eligible students ate at school; in Berkeley, participation was up
to 32 percent.
ACNJ is calling on school
districts to encourage more families to sign their children up for the
program and begin serving breakfast after school
begins rather than before the day starts, when many children are not
present to eat.