The West Orange School District dramatically underserved its students last year who were eligible for a free- or reduced-price breakfast, according to a recent report.
The second annual School Breakfast Report released by the Advocates for Children of New Jersey this week found there were 1,748 eligible students in West Orange who did not receive a federally funded free- or reduced-price breakfast in 2011-12.
There were 2,591 students eligible to participate in the program last year, but only 33 percent -- about 850 students -- actually received a free- or reduced-price breakfast, according to the report. The district had about 6,800 students enrolled in its schools last year.
According to the report, the district could have been reimbursed an estimated $470,000 if all eligible students participated in the program.
The federally funded School Breakfast Program is available for children living in low-income families. A family of four earning less than $30,000 a year qualifies for free school meals, and a family of four earning about $42,000 qualifies for meals at a reduced price.
West Orange is not an anomaly in New Jersey when it comes to falling short of ensuring its students participate in this program. Only 35 percent of the 471,714 children eligible for free- or reduced-price breakfast actually received it in March 2012, according to the report.
New Jersey ranks 48th in the nation for its low participation in the federal child nutrition program, the report noted.
While New Jersey has lagged behind in providing breakfast to students who are eligible for it, the state saw a 21 percent increase in the number of children from low-income families receiving breakfast at school between October 2010 and March 2012, the report found.