Nearly 400,000 New Jersey kids receive free or reduced-price school meals, which may serve as their only reliable source of food for the week. For these children, the final bell of the school year can signify an end to knowing for sure where their next nutritious meal will come from.
The lack of access to healthy food can have serious, negative implications for their physical and cognitive development, affecting their learning, social interaction, productivity, and long-term health.
To help kids stay healthy and active all summer long, we serve breakfast and lunch to kids in need through the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) at sites across the state, including libraries, recreation centers, and Boys & Girls Clubs. This year, the FoodBank expects to provide more than 112,000 meals at more than 50 sites throughout New Jersey, an increase over last year.
One of our main goals for this summer is to serve more nutritious meals to children in need in underserved areas, where kids who qualify for SFSP meals may not be receiving them. We’re working with Hunger Free New Jersey, with vital support from the Reinvestment Fund, to provide more meals in Bergen County, specifically. Towards this goal, Hunger Free New Jersey will take the lead in community outreach and program communication–identifying and connecting with potential new sites and creating greater awareness of this critical child feeding program–while the FoodBank will facilitate the program at each site, providing healthy meals and free nutrition education workshops. This new partnership will help to bridge a critical meal gap for our most vulnerable young neighbors.
In keeping with the FoodBank’s mission to address hunger as a health issue and the USDA’s strict nutritional guidelines, we ensure that every meal we provide is well-balanced and packs tons of health benefits. A typical lunch, for example, includes milk, two pieces of fresh produce, one grain, and one protein.
“Making the investment in kids’ well-being in the early stages of life, especially during times of greatest need, like the summer, will lay the right foundations for their futures,” said Carlos Rodriguez, President & CEO of the Community FoodBank of New Jersey. “The support and partnership of other organizations, companies, and individual donors are critical in allowing us to expand our reach into more areas where children need us most.”