School breakfast programs in NJ U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer and Top Chef Tom Colicchio at Hunger Free NJ Roundtable this week discussed how to increase participation in New Jersey's school breakfast program.
U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer discusses his efforts to bolster school breakfast programs in New Jersey with other leaders in the fight against hunger. (Photo provided)
On Wednesday, May 29, 2019, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) discussed stamping out hunger in New Jersey with federal, state, and community leaders, including Top Chef’s Tom Colicchio, at the Hunger Free NJ Roundtable held at Rutgers University. Other leaders participating in the roundtable included Congressman Frank Pallone (NJ-6), former Lt. Governor and President and CEO of Fulfill Kim Guadagno, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, NJ Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson, NJ Agriculture Secretary Doug Fisher, Assemblywoman Joann Downey, as well as chef and anti-hunger activist Tom Colicchio Hunger Free NJ Director Adele LaTourette, President and CEO of Community Food Bank of NJ Carlos Rodriguez, President and CEO of the Food Bank of South Jersey Fred Wasiak. “No one should go hungry in the greatest country in the world. I am tremendously grateful for the work of all the leaders who participated in today’s conversation,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5). “I am committed to the fight against hunger for our children and our community. We must ensure our schools are taking every step to provide free breakfast for those who need it. We must also protect SNAP, and work with local partners to ensure our children can get what they need to eat in North Jersey and across the country.” Last October, Gottheimer joined school administrators, child health advocates, local elected officials, and students at Nellie K. Parker Elementary School in Hackensack to call on school districts to improve their school breakfast programs and utilize available federal grant resources. Studies show hunger in the classroom leads to a decreased ability to focus, decreased physical activity, stomach aches, headaches, depression, and anxiety. Research also shows that students who skip breakfast generally make more errors, have slower memory recall, and are more likely to be absent, tardy, and to repeat a grade. But for those students who do eat breakfast, we see better vitamin and nutrient intake, healthier overall diets, and less susceptibility to being overweight or obese. In fact, a Tufts University study also showed elementary school students who eat breakfast listen better and have better spatial memory and short-term memory than students who skip breakfast. Since taking office, Gottheimer has worked with schools and the USDA to ensure that all eligible students in North Jersey have an after-the-bell school breakfast option. For example, the Bergenfield Public School District and their superintendent Dr. Christopher Tully, worked with Gottheimer's office to expand their use of the School Breakfast Program reimbursements and are well on their way to getting a breakfast to every student who needs one in the morning. And from the 2016-2017 school year to this past school year, the USDA data shows that Bergenfield has boosted their participation rates.