NJ gaining on afterschool suppers

children eating in the cafeteria

New Jersey communities achieved one of the highest increases in the nation when it comes to serving afterschool suppers to more students, according to a national report released today.

The Food Research & Action Center’s report, Afterschool Suppers: A Snapshot of Participationfound that the number of New Jersey children receiving afterschool suppers rose 22.5 percent from October 2017 to October 2018, when more than 24,000 children received a snack or meal on an average day. Only 10 states achieved higher increases.

The number of students receiving afterschool snacks also grew, rising 6 percent during that same time. In October 2018, 43,547 children received afterschool snacks through two federal programs – the National School Lunch Program and the Child and Adult Care Food Program.

“This is great progress and helps fight hunger for children who might otherwise go home to an empty dinner table,’’ said Adele LaTourette, director, Hunger Free New Jersey. “Federal child nutrition programs like afterschool meals give students the nourishment they need to be healthy and succeed in school.’’

LaTourette noted, however, that New Jersey still falls short of serving supper to the FRAC recommended 15 percent of students who receive free or reduced-price school lunch. With a 5.4 supper participation rate, New Jersey was below the national 6.2 average.

If New Jersey reached the recommended 15 percent, communities would collect an additional $19.9 million each year in federal funds for afterschool suppers, according to a September report by Hunger Free New Jersey.

Many school districts continue to serve snacks through the National School Lunch Program, primarily because it is easier to administer since they are already participating through lunch service. FRAC’s report found that 55 percent of New Jersey’s afterschool nutrition is served through the National School Lunch Program.

The problem is, this program does not provide reimbursements for suppers and does not allow meal service on weekends or during school breaks.

The Child and Adult Care Food Program, on the other hand, provides generous reimbursements for snacks and suppers served in both schools and community-based afterschool programs. Those meals can be served on the weekends and during school breaks, under this program.

“We encourage more New Jersey school districts to switch to serving suppers, in addition to snacks,’’ LaTourette said. “For many children, a snack alone will not ward off the hunger they face when struggling families are unable to put dinner on the table every night.’’

Under CACFP, any community with at least half of children qualified to receive free or reduced-price school meals can provide snacks and suppers using federal funds.

“We are leaving so much money on the table that could be used to feed hungry children,’’ LaTourette noted. “It just doesn’t make sense. While it takes some effort to implement the program, once it’s up and running, schools routinely report that serving supper helps address student hunger, which is a major barrier to learning.’’

Child Nutrition Reauthorization, currently being considered by Congress, provides an opportunity to invest in afterschool meals by streamlining the program to allow more New Jersey children to receive this critical nutrition, LaTourette said.

Increasing private and public funding for afterschool programs — including more investment of federal, state, and local dollars — would also help meet the demand for quality afterschool programs, which far outstrips supply in low-income communities, the report found.

In addition to providing good nutrition, afterschool programs also bolster academic achievement, provide safe places for children to play and learn after school and support working parents.

“The nutrition and enrichment activities provided through afterschool programs support both children’s health and learning,” LaTourette said. “We need to bolster that support by increasing the number of programs offering afterschool activities and suppers, and make sure they are affordable and accessible for low-income families.”

View the report. For more information about hunger in New Jersey, visit hungerfreenj.org.

The Food Research & Action Center is the leading national nonprofit organization working to eradicate poverty-related hunger and undernutrition in the United States. To learn more, visit FRAC.org,

Hunger Free New Jersey works to change policy and practice to ensure that every single New Jersey resident has healthy food to eat, every single day.

Summer meals strategy sessions

Summit to help school districts meet new state mandate to provide summer meals to kids.

Reinvestment Fund is hosting the summit, in partnership with Hunger Free New Jersey and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Event Details
Summer Meals Summit

Dec. 13, 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. (Lunch provided)
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
50 College Road E.
Princeton, NJ
Register now.

More Info
When school is out hunger sets in for far too many children.

The Summer Food Service Program provides federal dollars to feed children during the school is out and hunger sets in for many students who rely on school meals during the academic year.

A new state law requires all schools with at least 50 percent of students qualified for free or reduced-price lunch to serve meals through the Summer Food Service Program, starting in 2020.

This free sessions will highlight key strategies to implement successful summer meals programs, helping districts tap into federal funds to feed children during the summer.
 
We will bring together school officials, community partners and advocates to answer questions and explore successful strategies. The New Jersey Department of Agriculture will hold SFSP trainings in January for new sponsors. This session will help you decide whether to become a sponsor or site, among other important considerations.

The most effective programs are a community effort. Learn the ins and outs of SFSP and how to team up with others to deliver tasty, healthy meals to more students.

For more information, contact Lisa Pitz, outreach director, at lpitz@cfanj.org or (201) 569-1804, x21

NJ slips in school breakfast ranks

New state law promises improvement

New Jersey is heading in the wrong direction when it comes to providing school breakfast to low-income students, many of whom routinely face hunger, according to a national report released today.

The state dropped from 19th to 21st place in the Food Research and Action Center’s (FRAC) annual School Breakfast Scorecard.

Since 2011, New Jersey schools had made steady progress in reaching more hungry children through the federal School Breakfast Program, but in the 2017-18 school year student participation dipped 2 percent to 59.1 percent of students who eat free or low-cost school lunch, according to the report.

New Jersey schools are failing to claim at least $14 million in federal school breakfast funds – dollars the state’s taxpayers already send to Washington, D.C., the report found.

“This just doesn’t make sense,’’ said Adele LaTourette, director, Hunger Free New Jersey, which leads the New Jersey Food for Thought Campaign, a statewide effort to expand participation in federal child nutrition programs.

“We have hungry kids. We have a federal program that provides money to feed these children a healthy breakfast. And still, far too many New Jersey schools fail to take steps to maximize participation,’’ she said.

The problem, LaTourette explained, is that many schools continue to serve breakfast before school – when most students have not yet arrived. By making breakfast part of the school day, just like lunch, schools can reach all children who need this morning nutrition to concentrate and learn. Known as breakfast after the bell, this approach typically involves serving breakfast in the classroom or another location during the first few minutes of the school day.

“When schools serve breakfast after the bell, participation skyrockets,’’ LaTourette said. “Many New Jersey schools have successfully adopted this approach, but many have stubbornly resisted, while others have rolled back programs due to logistical concerns.’’

A new state law promises to reverse this slide, she added.

Enacted in May 2018, state law now requires schools with at least 70 percent of students eligible for free or reduced-price meals to serve breakfast after the bell. The New Jersey Department of Agriculture has notified 99 districts, comprising a total of 237 affected schools, that implementation plans must be submitted by May 31, 2019. Schools must begin serving breakfast after the bell in September 2019.

Other states that have implemented similar requirements have seen participation skyrocket, receiving millions more in federal dollars to fight childhood hunger and ranking as best in the nation.

“We expect that the new school breakfast law will reverse our downward slide in serving school breakfast to students in need,’’ said LaTourette, whose organization pushed for the law’s passage. “We look forward to working with school leaders across the state to implement this sensible change so all New Jersey children begin their day with a good breakfast that can boost school success.’’

Despite last year’s setback, many New Jersey schools have effectively implemented breakfast after the bell, proving that this is a do-able solution to childhood hunger, said Lisa Pitz, outreach director, Hunger Free New Jersey. From large urban districts like Newark, Camden and Atlantic City to smaller districts like Bound Brook and North Haledon, school leaders have made breakfast after the bell work, Pitz said.

In fact, Newark ranked 4th nationwide in FRAC’s companion report, School Breakfast: Making It Work in Large Districts, with 92 percent of district students receiving breakfast.

Those districts that successfully implemented breakfast after the bell have fueled New Jersey’s rise in the school breakfast ranks from 46th in 2010 – the year before the launch of the New Jersey Food for Thought Campaign, a statewide coalition that advocates for breakfast after the bell and other child nutrition programs.

“Leadership is key,’’ LaTourette said. “When you have a superintendent who recognizes that nutrition and learning go hand-in-hand and who makes breakfast a priority, you have a successful school breakfast program. And that equates to more students beginning their school day ready to learn.’’

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About the report

The Food Research and Action Center measures the reach of the federal School Breakfast Program by comparing the number of low-income children that participate in breakfast to those that participate in school lunch. The School Breakfast Scorecard contains national and state data for breakfast participation. School Breakfast – Making it Work in Large School Districts surveys large urban school districts across the country on school breakfast participation rates and policies during the school year. Both reports are available at www.frac.org.

Hunger Free New Jersey works to change policy and practice so that all New Jersey residents have healthy food to eat, every single day.