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Ruiz, Turner Bill to Expand Free School Meals Program Advances

Trenton – Legislation sponsored by Senate Education Chair M. Teresa Ruiz and Senate Education Vice Chair Shirley Turner, which would require the state to pay the difference between federal allocations and the total cost of reduced price breakfast or lunch, advanced from the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee today.


“For many children around the state, the meals they receive in school are their only reliable source of food each day. Unfortunately, for families struggling to make ends meet even the cost of reduced breakfast and lunch can be financially straining. We can remove that burden all together by using state funding to supplement the federal funding designated for reduced lunches,” 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.”


Under the bill, S-4200, no public school student who is eligible for reduced price breakfast or lunch would be required to pay for his or her meal, the remaining cost of the meal after the federal reimbursement would be covered by the state. The bill would allocate $4.5 million for the program.


“Far too many families around the state struggle with food insecurity which is why it is crucial we do all that we can to provide children with filling, nutritious meals,” said Senator Turner (D-Hunterdon/Mercer). “Students perform better academically and socially when they have food in their stomachs, and this legislation will go a long way in ensuring students have the fuel they need to get through their school days without having to worry about whether they will get a meal or go hungry.”


The bill was released from committee by a vote of 11-1-1 and next heads to the full Senate for further consideration.