Free, healthy meals provided to kids at hundreds of NJ sites this summer
On any given day in July of last year, summer meal programs provided food to more than 173,000 New Jersey children.
That's a jump of more than 32,000 children from one summer prior.
According to a report released Wednesday by the Food & Research Action Center, New Jersey jumped from 12th to 6th nationally in 2017 for lunch served to children during the summer when school is out and hunger moves in for many students who rely on meals during the school day.
In July 2017, the national report said, communities served over 1.5 million lunches to children and teens across the Garden State at hundreds of sites, such as parks, libraries, camps and schools.
"There's room to grow, but we're very happy with where we've come to at this point," said Adele LaTourette, director of the New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition.
Despite the progress, she noted, meals reached just 23.7 percent of students who received free or reduced-price lunch during the academic year. The national benchmark is 40 percent; only the District of Columbia meets that goal.
New Jersey ranks 7th for breakfast distribution during the summer — down from the 3rd in 2016 — but the state saw a 20 percent increase in the average number of kids getting breakfast daily from July 2016 to July 2017. Other states outperformed New Jersey's growth.
This summer, more than 1,300 sites will serve food to kids through programs that are reimbursed by federal dollars.
Find a meal site in New Jersey:
“We are working with our partners across the state to get the word out and let parents know where sites are located, what meals are being served and when,’’ LaTourette said.
"Open" sites allow any children to receive free, healthy meals, and parents need not provide identification or proof of income. Some cites require that children be enrolled in the associated recreation or academic program.