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Ruiz-Turner Bill to Reduce Hunger in New Jersey Schools Now Law

Ruiz NJBOE photo 4

Legislation requires notification of the summer meals program to each school district

 TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator M. Teresa Ruiz and Senator Shirley K. Turner aiming to reduce hunger in New Jersey schools was signed into law.

The new law, 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 lack of nutritious food can adversely affect the learning, growth and well-being of school children,” said Senator Turner (D-Hunterdon/Mercer). “By notifying parents of the summer meal program this law will address the issue of hunger in our state and make sure that no student misses the opportunity to receive a meal even when the school year is over.”

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.

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 bill was approved with a vote of 33-0 and was passed by the Assemblyby a vote of 75-0 on June 22, 2017.