State program provides nutritious meals for children in summer

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New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher encourages organizations to help provide nutritious meals to children during the summer months through the Department’s Summer Food Service Program.

The Summer Food Program began in 1976 as an outgrowth of the National School Lunch Program. The Summer Food Service Program is designed to reach those who are age 18 or younger in economically disadvantaged areas. It also is open to people over 18 who have intellectual, developmental, or physical disabilities and who participate in public or nonprofit private programs established for individuals with disabilities, according to a press release through the New Jersey Department of Agriculture.

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In the 2021-22 school year, 717 School Food Authorities with a total of 2,617 sites participated in the National School Lunch Program’s Seamless Summer Option to provide more than 147 million lunches and 81 million breakfasts free to all children 18 and under.

In 2022, 158 organizations participated in the Summer Food Service Program serving more than 11 million nutritious meals which included breakfast, lunches, dinners, and snacks to more than 1,200 summer meal sites.

The deadline for submission of completed applications is March 20. Learn more about the New Jersey Summer Food Service Program at https://bit.ly/3eCQygp.

The federally funded program reimburses participating organizations for meals served to children who live in areas in which at least 50% of the children qualify for free or reduced-price meals under the National School Lunch Program.

Applicants may include public or private nonprofit school food authorities, units of local, municipal, county or state governments, public or private nonprofit organizations, residential summer camps or national youth sports programs.

Organizations approved to sponsor the Summer Food Service Program are responsible for managing the feeding sites that provide the meals to young children.

Most participating organizations may be reimbursed for up to two meals a day. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and/or snacks. Meals may also be reimbursed for nights and weekends.

Those serving primarily migrant children may be reimbursed for up to three meals a day.

Residential camps may serve up to three meals a day but are reimbursed only for meals served to children eligible for free or reduced-price meals under the National School Lunch Program.

In addition to the Summer Food Program, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, Division of Food and Nutrition, administers a number of programs devoted to improving the quality and provision of food to New Jersey residents, in particular those most in need, including School Nutrition Programs and the Child and Adult Care Food Program.

The Division of Food and Nutrition also administers The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), which distributes federally donated commodities to six emergency feeding organizations statewide. These federally donated foods are distributed to more than 800 soup kitchens, food pantries and public feeding sites serving the state’s neediest citizens.

For more information on the Summer Food Service Program or to obtain an application, call 609-292-4498.

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