More than 137,000 students in 648 New Jersey school districts will get a free, federally funded breakfast by September 2019.

Known as “breakfast after the bell,” the initiative is expected to significantly boost student participation in the federal School Breakfast Program, which provides money to feed low-income students in New Jersey and across the nation, according to a recent analysis by Hunger Free New Jersey and the national Food Research & Action Center.

The new law will enable schools with 70 percent or more students enrolled in the free or reduced-price school meals program to serve breakfast after students arrive at school.

New Jersey’s high-poverty schools stand to gain an additional $30.4 million in federal funds, based on the Food Research & Action Center’s analysis. The funds could be used to combat childhood hunger, removing a major obstacle to learning, according to Food for Thought, a report released this month by Hunger Free New Jersey.

“We know that many children and teens face hunger on a regular basis,” said Adele LaTourette, director, Hunger Free New Jersey.

The School Breakfast Program and others like it recognize the strong link between nutrition and learning, LaTourette said. In passing the legislation in May 2018, the New Jersey State Legislature also recognized this link, requiring breakfast be offered as part of the regular school day in high-poverty schools.

The Food for Thought report was guided by a statewide steering committee led by Hunger Free New Jersey, the New Jersey departments of agriculture, education and health, and New Jersey’s major education organizations, including the New Jersey School Boards Association.