Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Pamela Lampitt, Jamel Holley and Gabriela Mosquera to encourage student participation in summer meal programs gained final legislative approval from the Senate on Friday and now heads to the governor’s desk.
In the State of New Jersey, 1.15 million residents, including 375,000 children, are food insecure. Increasingly, non-profit community-based and local government afterschool providers are offering summer learning programs to ensure students have access to educational enrichment opportunities during the summer months. However, the sponsors note, during the summer months many children lose access to school breakfast and lunch programs and are at risk of going hungry.
“Healthy nutrition is an important component of academic success. A greater effort must be made to inform parents about summer meal programs, where they are and when they happen,” said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington).
The bill (A-4906), which passed the Assembly in June, would require public and nonpublic schools to notify students and parents of the availability of summer meal programs and locations where the meals are served.
“Some parents may not even be aware that these programs exist,” said Holley (D-Union). “Raising awareness about the summer meal programs can help ensure that families that struggle financially can still provide nutritious meals to their children without adding to their budgets.”
“The summer months can be tough for low-income families. Babysitting and summer camp expenses alone can put a real damper on a family’s finances,” said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester). “This can help struggling families to provide for their children without taking on another expense.”
Under the bill, the Department of Agriculture would have to develop and distribute notification flyers to each school district and nonpublic school in the state no later than June 1. School districts and schools would also be allowed to provide electronic notice through the usual means by which the school district or school communicates with parents and students electronically.