Bound Brook School District Wins School Breakfast Challenge

 

SCHOOL BREAKFASTL to R: Kristen Schiro, Sally Hoben, Ruth Prothero, Mark Herzlich

Bound Brook School District recently received first place prize in the NJ School Breakfast Challenge sponsored by the American Dairy Association and Dairy Council, the Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association, the New Jersey Education Association, Advocates for Children of New Jersey and the NJ Food for Thought School Breakfast Campaign.  As a top winner of this honor, Bound Brook School District received a $5,000 grant and a visit from New York Giants Linebacker Mark Herzlich at an awards ceremony at Lafayette School in Bound Brook on October 7, 2014. At this event, Advocates for Children of New Jersey also released Food For Thought: 4th Annual New Jersey School Breakfast Report.

Bound Brook School District has been a participant in Coordinated School Health for five years, working closely with EmPoWER Somerset who oversees the program in Central Jersey as a grantee of the New Jersey Department of Health, Child and Adolescent Health Program. While 71% of district students are eligible for free and reduced lunch, only 16% were participating in the schools free and reduced breakfast program, offered before the start of the school day. This situation is not unique. According to the national Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), only 47 of 100 eligible students nationwide participate in federally-funded free and reduced breakfast programs.

Under the leadership of District Superintendent Daniel Gallagher, Bound Brook High School nurse Sally Hoben championed this effort. She saw a need in the district to offer universal breakfast. According to Hoben, “Kids are hungry all the time and they come to my office complaining of headaches and tiredness.”  Working closely with Pomptonian Food Service, administration, teachers, and EmPoWER Somerset, Hoben was able to address some initial concerns about breakfast taking too long or creating a mess in the classroom. Those concerns turned out to be unfounded, as classroom breakfast easily became part of the daily routine.

The benefit of breakfast outweighs any issues that may come up.  According to Kristen Schiro, EmPoWER Somerset Director of Health and Wellness, “There is a wealth of evidence on the benefits of offering a universal free breakfast after-the-bell program. Offering free breakfast to all students removes the stigma of being identified as ‘low income’ which often deters eligible students from participating. Participation also increases when breakfast is offered after the bell, making it more convenient and accessible. We are so pleased that Bound Brook School District has implemented this program!”

Since the district-wide adoption of this program in January of 2014 school breakfast participation has increased from just 211 students in September of 2013 to 1,402 in May of 2014 – a 564% increase. Each morning breakfast is delivered to the classroom for a large majority of the 1605 students enrolled in the Bound Brook school district.  As they walk through the classroom door, students grab a bag packed with whole grain cereal, low fat milk and fruit. On average 1,377 students receive free breakfast daily.

Building upon the success of universal breakfast after the bell, Bound Brook School District also initiated summer food service program in June of 2014.  This program successfully addresses a gap in service of summer food insecurity.  This daily summer breakfast and lunch program was a joint effort   with the Bound Brook School District, Pomptonian Food Service, and Bound Brook Recreation Department providing a total of 3,349 breakfasts and 2,941 lunches throughout the summer.

We are very proud of Bound Brook School District.  We hope many other schools will see the success Bound Brook has had and take the lead in adopting universal breakfast after the bell.