Tuesday, May 28, 2024
HomeBeyond ParsippanyLegislation to Connect Students with Nutritious Meals Heads to Governor Murphy

Legislation to Connect Students with Nutritious Meals Heads to Governor Murphy

MORRIS COUNTY — Efforts to battle food insecurity among New Jersey youth took a step forward when the New Jersey General Assembly, by a vote of 74-1, passed legislation requiring school districts to provide information to parents and guardians about the National School Lunch Program and the federal School Breakfast program.

Passed unanimously by the New Jersey Senate earlier this year, this legislation now awaits Governor Phil Murphy’s signature for approval. 

“Through this bill, we are aiming to increase participation in these meal programs so that no child goes hungry during the school day,” Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Middlesex), one of the primary sponsors of the bill said. “This legislation will help us ensure that every student eligible for free or reduced-priced meals knows exactly how to access them.”

According to data published online by the Annie E. Casey Foundation more than 342,000 New Jersey students are receiving free or reduced-priced lunches during the 2022/2023 school year.

This latest measure, bolstered by several similar efforts enacted since the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that New Jersey children have access to quality meals, would take notification and education requirements already in place a step further by requiring parents and guardians to submit either an application for the programs or a signed card indicating that they have received the application and are uninterested in participating in them.

Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D-Union) said that the parental sign-off or waivers would serve as an important way to “ensure that the greatest number of people possible are being notified of these critical programs,” while Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds-Jackson (D-Mercer/Hunterdon) shared a reminder that not everyone has access to the internet, making it hard for some people to learn about the “life-enhancing” programs.

“By requiring everyone to receive physical copies of this information, we are seeking to level the playing field and make sure no child goes without food due to their socioeconomic status,” Reynolds-Jackson said.

This measure is not the final legislative effort being considered to bring nutritious meals to more New Jersey Children, lawmakers have said.

In June, the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee and the Assembly Agriculture and Food Security Committee voted 4-0 in favor of legislation making all school lunches free in New Jersey schools by the 2028-29 school year. 

“Our students are our most precious commodities and fueling their bodies so they can concentrate and fuel their brains is paramount to them receiving a top-notch education,” Assemblywoman Angela McKnight (D-Hudson) said. “Parental involvement is important to their children’s success and the legislation advanced today is an important step in that process.”

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Frank L. Cahill
Frank L. Cahill
Publisher of Parsippany Focus since 1989 and Morris Focus since 2019, both covering a wide range of events. Mr. Cahill serves as the Executive Board Member of the Parsippany Area Chamber of Commerce, President of Kiwanis Club of Tri-Town and Chairman of Parsippany-Troy Hills Economic Development Advisory Board.
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