Legislation Assembly Democrats Pamela Lampitt, Jamel Holley, Gabriela Mosquera, Troy Singleton and Benjie Wimberly sponsored to establish online applications for school lunch and breakfast programs gained unanimous approval from the General Assembly on Thursday.
“Many of New Jersey’s children and families rely on school lunch and breakfast programs to meet nutritional needs during the school year,” said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington), chair of the Assembly Women and Children Committee. “The greater the participation in these meal programs, the closer we are to ensuring that no child will go hungry in New Jersey.”
The bill (A-4908) directs the Department of Education to establish online applications for the National School Lunch Program and school breakfast programs. A school district that implements online school meal applications also would be required to continue making paper applications available. The sponsors hope that modernizing the application process ultimately will allow more eligible students to enroll.
“Putting free and reduced school lunch and breakfast applications online can eliminate the manual entry of student information from thousands of paper applications and save participating school districts time and money,” said Holley (D-Union). “This will make it easier and faster to ensure that all students in New Jersey have something to eat during the school day.”
“Some parents may be more comfortable with a paper application, but for others, filling out the form online may be the preferred option,” said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester). “Regardless of how they choose to apply, it’s important that parents submit an application so that their children can focus on learning, not their hunger, in the classroom.”
“Without nutritious, well-balanced meals, students cannot do their best at school. Ultimately, that hurts the entire state,” said Singleton (D-Burlington). “Giving parents another means of making sure their kids have healthy meals during the school day will reduce food insecurity among children in New Jersey.”
“Online applications will reduce processing times, which means that more kids can have food to eat at school more quickly,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic). “This will help move us toward a hunger-free New Jersey.”
In New Jersey, 1.15 million residents, including 375,000 children, are food insecure.
The bill now awaits further consideration in the Senate.