TRENTON – Some 25,000 more children are participating in the school breakfast program now that many school districts are allowing their students to eat in classrooms, according to state Agriculture Department Commissioner Doug Fischer.
Previously, some schools were concerned about allowing students to eat breakfast in classrooms because teachers were concerned it would cut into instructional time. However, since federal officials have determined eating breakfast is considered instructional time, more schools are allowing it since a letter was sent out to school districts on Jan. 17.
Fisher, testifying Wednesday before the Joint Commission on Public Schools, said allowing kids to eat in the classrooms makes all the difference for kids gaining access to nutritional meals.
Most kids, he said, did not make it to school before the first period bell because of things like inflexible bus schedules.
Because of flexibility, there has been a 16.3 percent increase in the number of students participating in the school breakfast program.
He pointed out some school districts that have well-run school breakfast programs include Perth Amboy, Newark, Edison, Passaic and Burlington.
Fischer said there’s no right or wrong way for a district to run a school breakfast program.
“There’s no one right model,” he said. “It just takes creativeness.”
The federal government provides a $1.25 subsidy for each meal, he said. A typical school breakfast consists of cereal, juice and a piece of fruit.
In addition to an increased likelihood students will learn better academically with a nutritious meal in the morning, Fischer pointed to some important “life skills” students learn eating in the classroom, such as cleaning up after themselves and completing their work.