A new fund would leverage federal dollars to feed more children who face hunger by expanding school breakfast and summer meals in towns across New Jersey.
The Nourishing Young Minds Initiative Fund would be established in the New Jersey Department of Agriculture to help defray the costs of effectively implementing the federal school breakfast and summer meals programs in high-poverty communities.
The fund would be used to inform parents about the availability of federal child nutrition programs in their schools and towns. Dollars would also be earmarked for startup or expansion costs associated with serving breakfast after the bell and summer meals, under the legislative proposal.
An alarming 340,000 New Jersey children face hunger each year, threatening their health and ability to succeed in school, according to Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap 2016.
The Food for Thought Campaign, a coalition of anti-hunger, health, nutrition and child advocates, have worked closely with the New Jersey Department of Agriculture to help schools and municipalities provide breakfast and summer meals.
This effective partnership has resulted in a 77 percent increase in the number of low-income students eating breakfast at school since 2010 – the year before the campaign launched.
In addition, the campaign and the agriculture department are working together to increase child participation in the summer meals programs, which helps to fill the nutritional gap for children who rely on school meals during the academic year. Last summer, the number of meal sites grew 21 percent, from 1,100 in 2015 to 1,350 in 2016, according to preliminary data from the New Jersey Department of Agriculture.
Still, logistical challenges in implementing both programs, as well as costs associated with start-up and expansion, frequently prevent schools and municipalities from taking advantage of the federal dollars available to feed hungry children.
“This fund recognizes the success of this partnership and will provide the state support needed to continue expansion of federal child nutrition programs so they reach more kids in need,” said Adele LaTourette, director, New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition, which also co-chairs the New Jersey Food for Thought Campaign.
“We know that tens of thousands of New Jersey children face hunger each and every day,” LaTourette added. “This is unacceptable anywhere, but especially in a state as wealthy as New Jersey. This legislation is a great step toward solving childhood hunger and we applaud the sponsors for making anti-hunger initiatives a statewide priority.’’