A summer meals program that provides breakfast and lunch for needy kids in New Jersey is highly ranked when compared to other states. Unfortunately, it is still falling short for a lot of kids here.

New Jersey was ranked 3rd in the nation for its breakfast service in 2016. But the federal school meals program fell short in the summertime, according to Nancy Parello of Advocates for Children of New Jersey.

"Last summer, we only reached 21 percent of the children who are eligible to receive free or local school meals."

"We actually do not do too badly in the rankings. We are 3rd for breakfast, and we are 12th for lunch. The problem is that most states are not doing this well. So even though it looks like we are high in the rankings, there is still a lot of room for improvement."

She says New Jersey is leaving more than 6 million federal dollars on the table for this breakfast and lunch program in the summer.

"That is what really kind of makes this a no-brainer, because communities can collect federal dollars to pay for these meals."

"There are a lot of kids who are not getting the summer nutrition that they need. So, in essence, that money just stays in Washington instead of coming back to New Jersey to feed kids."

The "Food for Thought" campaign encourages local officials to expand summer meal services. It is a partnership of the state Department of Agriculture, the State Education Department, child hunger advocates, anti-hunger and health groups and education organizations.

Parello says people in New Jersey who are interested in the summer nutrition programs can go to njsummermeals.org, where there is a list of sponsors that provide meals. They can contact those sponsors in their area and find out where the meals sites are.

Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at Joe.Cutter@townsquaremedia.com

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