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NJ’s Summer-Meal Programs Reach Twice as Many Kids in 2020, Battling COVID-19’s Impact on Families

by Colleen O’Dea, Senior Writer, NJSpotlight.com

This story is being republished under a special NJ News Commons content-sharing agreement related to COVID-19 coverage. Link to FULL story: njspotlight.com/2021/02/summer-meal-programs-hunger-covid-19-reaching-more-kids-nj-food-insecurity/

New Jersey schools and community organizations fed twice the number of children last summer than the year before, providing meals to many who may have gone hungry otherwise due to the pandemic’s effect on families and on typical summer children’s programs.

Recognizing those great needs, more communities participated in federal summer-meal programs than before. The waiver of some rules due to the pandemic and a new state law requiring some public school districts to participate in the summer-meals program also helped boost the number of children served on an average day last July to almost 204,000. That represents 51 percent of the children who receive free or reduced-price school lunches, compared with just 26 percent who got meals in July 2019, according to a new report from Hunger Free New Jersey. The national standard is 40 percent and last year was the first time New Jersey reached it.

The report shows that schools and organizations served more than 9 million meals to children last summer, almost 5.9 million more than in 2019, an increase of 183 percent.

“This is an amazing achievement and underscores how critical it is to leverage federal nutrition programs,’’ said Adele LaTourette, director of Hunger Free New Jersey. “We commend all the school and community leaders who went the extra mile to head off hunger for so many children last summer.”

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