New Jersey Jumps to 6th Place Nationally for Serving More Summer LunchesLast Edited:
New Jersey jumped from 12th to 6th place nationally for serving up more meals to children during the summer when school is out and hunger sets in for many students who rely on school meals during the academic year, according to a national report released today.
In July 2017, New Jersey communities served nearly 1.5 million lunches to children and teens across the state - a 32 percent increase over 2016, according to the Food Research & Action Center's (FRAC) annual Hunger Doesn't Take A Summer Vacation: Summer Nutrition State Report.
On an average day last July, 101,138 New Jersey children ate lunch at hundreds of sites across the state, including parks, libraries, pools, camps, schools and other places where children congregate in the summer.
"This is great news for New Jersey children,'' said Adele LaTourette, director, New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition and co-chair of the New Jersey Food for Thought Campaign. "Childhood hunger is all too real in far too many New Jersey communities. Summer meals help to fill that gap when school is out.''
Despite this progress, New Jersey communities still reached just 24 percent of students who receive free or reduced-price school lunch. If New Jersey reached the nationally recommended benchmark of 40 percent of these children, it would collect an additional $5.2 million in federal dollars to feed hungry kids in the summer, according to FRAC's report.
Information provided by njsummermeals.org
This summer, New Jersey communities are expected to host more than 1,300 meal sites, which have steadily increased over the past two years, due in part to efforts by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture and the New Jersey Food for Thought Campaign to encourage local officials and community organizations to work together to implement or expand summer meal service. Typically, school districts, local government and community organizations serve as summer meal sponsors.
"The partnership between the campaign and the agriculture department has been very effective in helping more communities to serve summer meals," said Cecilia Zalkind, president & CEO, Advocates for Children of New Jersey, co-chair of the New Jersey Food for Thought Campaign. "But we still have a way to go before we can say we're reaching all children who could benefit.''
More children face hunger in the summer when school meals are not available to the roughly 428,000 children who rely on those meals during the academic year. The federal summer meals programs help fill that nutritional gap, while reimbursing schools, community organizations and local governments for each meal served.
In addition to providing free, healthy meals, many sites also offer an opportunity for children 18 years and younger to play together, engage in enrichment activities, hone their academic skills and be better prepared when they return to school in September, LaTourette noted.
To help ensure more parents know about summer meals, the New Jersey Food for Thought Campaign is launching a statewide effort to draw attention to the program.
"We are working with our partners across the state to get the word out and let parents know where sites are located, what meals are being served and when,'' LaTourette said, adding that outreach materials are available at njsummermeals.org.
To locate meal sites, parents and other caregivers can text "summer meals" to 97779, visit the USDA sitefinder at www.fns.usda.gov/summerfoodrocks or e-mail SFSPCommunication@ag.state.nj.us.
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