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Ruiz, Coughlin to Introduce Legislation to Expand Free School Meals Program

Trenton – Senate Education Chair M. Teresa Ruiz and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin announced plans today to introduce legislation, which would require the state to pay the difference between federal allocations and the total cost of reduced price breakfast or lunch.

“For many children around the state, the meals they receive in school may be their only reliable source of food each day. Unfortunately, even the cost of reduced breakfast and lunch can be financially straining for families struggling to make ends meet and we have seen instances of students being shamed for their school lunch debt. By using state funding to supplement the federal funding designated for reduced lunches we can remove that burden all together,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “As part of the comprehensive school nutrition package I am working on, this will ensure the children who need nourishment the most are able to get it. It is an honor to work alongside the Speaker, who shares the same values in understanding the critical importance of addressing food insecurity in our state.”

“It’s critically important that children have access to regular and nutritious meals while at school, but the sad fact is that for many families the financial burden is too great,” said Speaker Coughlin (D-Middlesex). “Children who eat breakfast and lunch show improved concentration, greater alertness, stronger comprehension, better memory and advanced learning skills. I’m proud to partner with Senator Ruiz to ensure that every child will have be served a healthy breakfast and lunch.”

Because school meal reimbursement is the same, despite the cost of living varying around the country and even within the state, the cost of reduced lunch also varies. Under the bill, no public school student who is eligible for reduced price breakfast or lunch would be required to pay for his or her meal. The bill would also allocate $4.5 million for the program.