Nearly 540,000 New Jersey Students Qualify for Free or Low-Cost Meals
Assemblyman Jamel C. Holley (D-Union) introduced legislation Monday that would require the Department of Agriculture, in consultation with the Department of Education, to create a targeted marketing campaign for the purpose of increasing student participation in the federal School Lunch and Breakfast Programs.
“There are approximately 540,000 New Jersey students living in families who qualify for the nutritious, well-balanced meals that are offered in these free and low-cost programs,” said Holley.
“A marketing campaign geared toward eligible children and their families would help ensure that as many students as possible receive nutritious meals that can help them remain focused on learning while in school, not on being hungry. The facts are clear: children are less likely to learn when they are hungry, because they just can’t focus.”
In New Jersey, tens of thousands of children suffer from hunger each year, and a number of studies show that childhood hunger impairs learning. It can even cause lifelong health problems.
The bill (A-4396) calls for the marketing campaign to use visual and design elements that appeal to children, such as the use of superheroes.
“This marketing campaign is crucial, because it will help enroll more students in these programs,” said Holley. “Actually, families often don’t participate in school meal programs, because they are not aware of them and/or don’t know that they qualify. We need to get this message out so that our school children are attentive and ready to learn when they are in school–not hungry.”