More than 1,200 NJ locations offering free meals to children this summer
When school's out, hunger moves in for possibly hundreds of thousands of kids in New Jersey.
According to a new report from the Food Research and Action Center, New Jersey's summer meal programs in July 2015 reached just 18.5 percent of the roughly 427,000 children who relied on free or reduced-price school lunches during the academic year.
But the state can't be blamed for a lack of trying. About 1,100 sites throughout New Jersey were offering free, healthy meals to children over the summer.
This year, the number of sites tops 1,200, according to state officials.
"Our staff has been working diligently to increase the number of meals sites, especially in communities with high child poverty," said New Jersey Agriculture Secretary Douglas Fisher in a press release. "We know the program is effective in preparing students for return to school in September."
Meals are offered at select locations where children typically congregate, such as parks, pools and schools, and through recreation programs.
According to Nancy Parello, spokeswoman with Advocates for Children of New Jersey, most towns run their food programs primarily during the week, but the group is pushing to get more towns involved in weekend offerings as well.
"It varies from town to town what the programs look like, so folks should check with their schools and local governments to find out where those sites are and what's available for kids at the different sites," Parello said.
A summer meal database from the United States Department of Agriculture has not yet been populated with New Jersey locations.
The federal program reimburses schools and towns for any meals they may distribute during the summer months.
Parents are not required to register or provide identification in order for their children to receive the meals, according to federal rules.
Contact reporter Dino Flammia at Dino.Flammia@townsquaremedia.com