Gov. Phil Murphy signed two bills into law on Sept. 9 that will help combat food insecurity among students across New Jersey.
The first bill, A-2368/S-1677, which was sponsored by Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Middlesex), requires New Jersey schools to provide free breakfast and lunch to students from working-class and middle-income families, according to a press release.
The second bill, A-2365/S-1928, requires school food authorities to engage in public education campaigns and develop promotional materials to educate parents about existing and expanding school meals program options, according to the press release.
“Consistent access to healthy meals is a fundamental human right, a fact that became all too clear for New Jersey families as they struggled to make ends meet amid a global pandemic,” Murphy said.
“We have fought hard alongside our students’ parents to provide our children with the tools they need to grow and excel, and today we demonstrate our intent to double those efforts in the battle against food insecurity.
“Crucially, by launching extensive public awareness campaigns, we will work to ensure that free, nutritious meals are not only available, but easily accessible, for every New Jersey student,” Murphy said.
“The Act is critical to meeting the needs of many working families and puts us on a direct path to feeding breakfast and lunch to every child who needs it,” Coughlin said. “Millions of New Jersey residents experienced unemployment during the pandemic, meaning more faced food insecurity as a result, many are still struggling to keep up with their bills.
“Helping keep money in people’s pockets, while ensuring more New Jersey students and their families can rely on access to the free school meals they need for success, has never been more important,” he said.
“As we work to expand the assistance available to families struggling with food insecurity, many programs continue to be underutilized,” said Sen. Vin Gopal (D-Monmouth). “This legislation will help to increase enrollment in the free school meals program, ensuring we are reaching as many eligible students as possible. No child should be expected to learn on an empty stomach.”