Tens of thousands of New Jersey children rely on school meals to get the nutrition they need to be healthy and learn. In the summer, these children lack access to those meals and families struggle to put food on the table.
Federal summer meals programs provide a solution to summertime hunger for kids. Communities across New Jersey are increasingly offering free meals to children in the summer at schools, parks, libraries and other places where children congregate. New Jersey recently rose to 6th place nationally for serving summer meals to more kids. Read the news release.
Not only can kids get healthy meals, they also can connect with friends, engage in fun, healthy activities and get some exercise. Meals are available to children and teens up to age 18.
On May 31, 2018, Governor Phil Murphy signed a law that requires school districts with at least half of students are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals to participate in the federal Summer Meal Food Service Program. This will go a long way toward combating childhood hunger. Districts must begin participating no later than Summer 2019.
Get the Word Out!
Parents need to know that these programs are available. The following are some effective outreach strategies that school, city and community leaders can use to ensure parents know these programs are available to their children.
Engage the Community. Partner with local agencies, organizations and businesses to distribute flyers through schools, libraries, food pantries, child care centers, recreation programs, housing authorities, supermarkets, hospitals and other community locations. Download summer meal flyers here.
School Outreach. Under a new state law, school districts are now required to inform parents about summer meals in their community, if more than half of students qualify for subsidized school meals. Here is a quick guide for easy outreach strategies that schools can use.
Community Events. Host a community event to attract parents and children to summer meals sites.
Get Social. Tips for using social media to spread the word, along with sample posts.
About Summer Meals
Funded through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), summer meals ensure that children who rely on free- and reduced-price school meals continue to receive healthy food during the summer.
Typically, a city or town has a summer meal sponsor (usually the school district, city or a community organization, such as the YMCA) that provides food to sites throughout the community. Some sites require children to be enrolled in a recreation or academic program.
Others are “open” sites where any child can go to receive free, healthy meals. Learn about becoming a summer meals site. At open sites, parents do not have to provide proof of income or ID. They simply need to bring their child to a site in their community.
While New Jersey has made great strides in serving summer meals to more children, just one-quarter of New Jersey’s low-income children received this essential nutrition in 2017. You can help change that by publicizing summer meals in your community.
For more information about summer meals in New Jersey, contact the New Jersey Department of Agriculture at 609-292-4498, or visit the Department’s website. To find meal sites, visit the USDA sitefinder or text “summer meals” to 97779.
Summer Meals Flyers