Keeping Children Healthy
Health Insurance Coverage
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.
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.
Combating Childhood Hunger
In 2011, Advocates for Children of New Jersey launched the New Jersey Food For Thought Campaign, a statewide coalition committed to combating childhood hunger, now led by Hunger-Free New Jersey. This effective partnership of state agencies, health, wellness and education organizations, municipal government, child advocates, schools and others has resulted in a significant increase in the number of New Jersey children receiving school breakfast. The coalition is now working to combat childhood hunger by ensuring more kids have summer and afterschool meals.
Student participation in the federal School Breakfast Program has increased 81 percent since 2010 – the year before the launch of the New Jersey Food for Thought Campaign.
This means that about 110,000 more children are receiving school breakfast each day, pushing the state from nearly last in the nation to 19th in 2017. As a result, New Jersey school districts have more than doubled the federal dollars they receive to provide breakfast, from $47.5 million in FY 2011 to an estimated $110 million in FY 2019, according to state budget figures.
Serving breakfast after the bell reaches more hungry students.
On May 30, 2018, Governor Phil Murphy signed into law a school breakfast bill that will give tens of thousands more NJ kids a healthy start to their school day. The new law requires schools with at least 70 percent of students eligible for free- or reduced-price meals to provide breakfast during the school day. An estimated 500 schools educating nearly 308,000 students will be required to serve breakfast “after the bell”, according to an analysis by ACNJ.
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 $5.2 million each year to fight childhood hunger, according to FRAC. ACNJ and the New Jersey Food for Thought Campaign released the first New Jersey-focused summer meals report in July 2015.
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.