Ruiz Bills to Reduce Hunger in New Jersey Schools Clears Committee

Ruiz School Funding

TRENTON – A pair of bills sponsored by Senator M. Teresa Ruiz aiming to reduce hunger in New Jersey schools were approved today by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.

The first bill, S-3371, requires the Department of Agriculture to provide flyers regarding the summer meal program to each school district and nonpublic schools to be distributed to all enrolled students, parents and guardians in the State no later than June 1 of the school year.  Additionally, school districts and nonpublic schools would be permitted to provide electronic notice of the information through the usual means by which the school district or nonpublic school communicates with parents and students electronically.

“We must ensure that parents are aware of the assistance that is available for their children, not only to provide nutritious meals during the school year but also during the summer months,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “We must utilize every possible means of communication available in order to ensure this important information is received and those who need this assistance get it.”

The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) began in 1968 and is federally-funded and state-administered. Around the nation, more than 200 million free meals to children 18 years old and under are served. People who are mentally or physically disabled may also receive these meals. Meal site sponsors can be schools, local government agencies, camps, and faith-based and nonprofit community organizations.

Currently there are 116 summer meal sponsors and over 1,300 meal sites in New Jersey according to the New Jersey Department of Agriculture.

A second bill, S-3372, would require the Department of Education to develop and make available to each school district and nonpublic school participating in the National School Lunch Program or in a school breakfast program, an Internet-based online school meal application for eligible students. Schools participating in either program would be encouraged to make the online school meal application available.

“The lack of nutritious food can adversely affect the learning, health and well-being of children,” said Senator Ruiz. “By promoting access to the National School Lunch program this legislation will better ensure that no student misses the opportunity to receive a meal.”

According to Community FoodBank of New Jersey, 42 million people in the U.S. are food insecure. One million people in New Jersey face hunger every day and nearly 300,000 of them are children.

The bills were approved with a vote of 12-0. They now head to the full Senate for consideration.