Children need quality healthcare to grow into healthy adults. Research shows that children who have health insurance coverage are more likely to receive the preventive care they need to avoid medical problems that require costly and painful treatment.
For more than two decades, ACNJ has led efforts to provide health coverage to more uninsured children and low-income parents. These efforts have resulted in thousands of children being enrolled in NJ FamilyCare, the state’s free or low-cost health insurance program.
Combating Childhood Hunger
ACNJ is co-leader of the NJ Food for Thought Campaign, which has successfully increased school breakfast participation across the state. Since 2010, New Jersey has seen a 73 percent increase in the number of low-income students receiving a healthy breakfast each school day.
This progress is the result of a growing number of New Jersey districts switching to serving “breakfast after the bell,” rather than before school, when most students have not yet arrived. This approach, typically done in the classroom during the first few minutes of the school day, significantly boosts participation, giving more kids the nutrition they need to concentrate and learn. Despite this progress, roughly 300,000 children go without school breakfast, even though federal dollars can be claimed for these meals.
Tens of thousands of children who eat meals at school lack access to healthy summer meals in towns across New Jersey.
In 2016, New Jersey’s summer meals programs reached only 21 percent of the more than 400,000 children who received free- or reduced-price school lunch in the 2015-16 school year. The national Food Research and Action Center (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 an additional $6.7 million each year to fight childhood hunger, according to FRAC. ACNJ and the NJ Food for Thought Coalition released the first New Jersey-focused summer meals report in July 2015.
Dental care is a key part of child health
In addition to quality medical care, children also need preventive dental care, starting at age 1. Tooth decay is the leading chronic childhood disease in the United States and is five times more common than asthma. The pain and complications of tooth decay can cause children to miss classes and fall behind in their studies. Left untreated, dental disease has been linked to serious adult illnesses, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and strokes.