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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 27, 2016
Contact: Nancy Parello|(908) email@example.com
New resource for parents to find summer meals for kids
Summer is in full swing – and so are summer meals in towns across New Jersey.
This year, state officials estimate that more than 1,200 sites are offering free meals to children this summer, helping to fill the nutrition gap for tens of thousands of children who rely on school meals during the academic year.
To find meals, parents can visit www.njsummermeals.org for a list of summer meal sponsors who can provide information on local sites. Parents do not need to fill out an application nor provide identification for their children to receive meals, according to federal rules. The meals must meet federal nutrition standards, which call for low-fat, low-sugar and high-grain foods
The New Jersey Department of Agriculture, along with state and community partners, has been working to increase the number of sites offering meals in communities across New Jersey. The meals are offered at places where children congregate during the summer, including parks, schools, pools, recreation programs and other community sites.
In July 2015, New Jersey’s summer meals programs reached just 18.5 percent of the roughly 427,000 children who received free- or reduced-price school lunch during the 2014-15 school year, according to a recent report by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC).
FRAC recommends that states serve at least 40 percent of these low-income children. If New Jersey expanded summer meals to reach that goal, communities and school districts could collect $7.26 million more federal dollars each year to fight childhood hunger, according to the report, Hunger Doesn’t Take A Summer Vacation: Summer Nutrition Status Report.
“We encourage parents and other caregivers to visit njsummermeals.org to find sites in their neighborhoods where children can get nutritious meals to keep them healthy during the summer,” said Cecilia Zalkind, executive director of Advocates for Children of New Jersey, co-leader of the New Jersey Food for Thought Campaign.
To help spread awareness of the availability of summer meals, The Food for Thought Campaign has launched a statewide effort to inform parents of this critical nutritional assistance, said Adele LaTourette, executive director of the New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition and campaign co-leader.
“The campaign’s many partners, including New Jersey’s major education groups, food banks and other anti-hunger advocates, are getting the word about through their networks, social and traditional media and local outreach,” LaTourette said. “We encourage people to visit njsummermeals.org for outreach tools and other information about summer meals.”
In addition to providing free, healthy meals, these programs also offer an opportunity for children 18 years and younger to play together, engage in enrichment activities, hone their academic skills and be better prepared when they return to school in September, LaTourette said.
“We know that many children, unfortunately, lack proper nutrition in the summer months when school is out," said Rose Acerra, president of the New Jersey Parent Teacher Association (NJPTA) and a Food for Thought campaign partner. "That's why we are calling on all of our parent leaders to help spread the word to other parents about the availability of summer meals in their communities."
For more information, visit www.njsummermeals.org or call 609-292-4498.
The NJ Food for Thought Campaign is a coalition of education and anti-hunger organizations, child advocates, state agencies and national organizations. The campaign has successfully increased student participation in the federal School Breakfast Program and is now working to expand summer meals to more children across New Jersey.