Does your child’s school serve breakfast? Thanks to a new law, many more schools in New Jersey will have to start serving breakfast to students. The new law requires public school districts in which 20 percent or more of the students meet federal poverty guidelines to provide free and reduced-price breakfasts. Children in eligible elementary schools (pre-K through grade 6) will begin receiving breakfasts on September 1, 2004. Students in upper-grade schools will begin the breakfast program a year later. Several hundred school districts across the state will have to provide breakfast starting next fall.
The School Breakfast Program started out as a two-year pilot program under the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 and was made permanent in October 1975. The federal law does not make schools take part in the program. As a result, even though the program started decades ago, many schools in New Jersey have not had a breakfast program. About 325,000 students were eligible for free or reduced-price breakfasts during the 2001-2002 school year, but fewer than one in four of these students actually received free or reduced-price breakfasts.
Under the new law:
- Students from families with incomes at or below 130% of the federal poverty guidelines will receive a free breakfast. Students from families with incomes between 130% and 185% will pay a reduced price for breakfast (no more than 30 cents). Children from families with higher incomes will pay close to the full price (between $1.10 and $1.40 depending on the grade).
- The breakfasts must provide at least one-fourth of a child’s daily nutrients and contain no more than 30 percent of calories from fat and no more than 10 percent of calories from saturated fat. Breakfasts must include four servings of the following foods:
- a fruit or vegetable, or full-strength fruit or vegetable juice;
- two servings of bread or cereal; or
- two servings of protein-rich foods such as meat, eggs, or peanut butter; or
- one serving of bread or cereal and one serving of protein-rich food.
- Schools must submit a school breakfast plan, explaining how they will run the breakfast program. Each school’s plan has to include:
- plans to reduce the embarrassment some students feel about receiving subsidized breakfasts;
- outreach plans to attract eligible parents and students; and
- outreach plans to attract students who are not eligible for free or reduced-price breakfasts, but who can still benefit from a School Breakfast Program in their school.
Adapted from an article written by Barbara Bielawski, Statewide Emergency Food and Anti-Hunger Network.
This article originally appeared in the May 2003 issue of Looking Out for Your Legal Rights®.