While the state Agriculture Department found an uptick recently in the number of kids participating in the school breakfast program at public schools, there are tens of thousands of more kids who are eligible but aren’t signed up.
The problem stems from the kids not being able to arrive at school early enough to eat the meal, insufficient word of mouth, even a shortage of Dumpsters. The results are low participation and enrollment rates.
Adele LaTourette, director of the Statewide Emergency Food and Anti-Hunger Network, told the Joint Commission on Public Schools today there are 64 districts that are “underachievers” when it comes to having students participate in the school breakfast program. Most of these schools have several students participating in the free or reduced lunch program. The districts include Lodi, Haledon, Union City, Carteret, and Jersey City, among others.
She said if these districts could get more students in the breakfast programs, an additional 88,300 kids would get a nutritious morning meal. She added that the state could get close to $23 million in federal funds, due to the increased enrollment. School breakfast programs are largely reimbursed by the federal Department of Agriculture.
LaTourette also recommend the state reinstate a 10 percent cut to the per-meal reimbursement rates, which could help provide some $5.4 million to the program.