A new bill introduced in the New Jersey Legislature would establish a fund to promote school breakfast and summer meal programs for low-income children.
The Nourishing Young Minds Initiative Fund would set aside about $400,000 for outreach and startup grants for groups to provide the meals.
“Hunger in America is a quiet crisis that forces a growing number of children to go without food,” Senate President Stephen Sweeney, primary sponsor of the bill, said in a statement issued by the Senate Democrats. “This is a solvable problem that can be alleviated by extending the already successful ‘Breakfast After the Bell’ program to reach more children.”
Advocates for Children of New Jersey and the Anti-Hunger Coalition praised the bill and have already successfully promoted the expansion of the programs through the Food for Thought campaign.
The “Breakfast After the Bell” program in public schools provided 240,577 children with meals in 2015-16, up from 135,813 in 2010. But there are still about 300,000 children who qualify for but are not getting breakfast. The meals themselves are subsidized by the federal government free and reduced-fee meal program.
“Despite the tremendous progress we have made in serving school breakfast to more children, about 300,000 low-income students are still missing out on this all-important morning meal,” Cecilia Zalkind, president and CEO of Advocates for Children of New Jersey, said in a statement. “This fund will help to build on our successful efforts and ensure that every single child starts their school day with the nutrition they need to grow and learn.’’
In addition to Sweeney, D-Cumberland, Gloucester Salem, bill sponsors include Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz, D-Essex, Sen. Raymond Lesniak, D-Union, and Assemblyman Adam Taliaferro, D-Cumberland, Gloucester, Salem.