PERTH AMBOY – New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher today kicked off the Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program by serving lunch to 150 children at the Robert N. Wilentz Elementary School in Perth Amboy.
“Good nutrition is essential for children to succeed in school,” said Fisher. “More than 402,000 students in our state received free or reduced price meals while school was in session. The Summer Food Service Program can provide those students with healthy meals during the summer months, as well, to ensure they return to school in September ready to learn.”
The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service, yet it is one of the most underutilized federal assistance programs — only 11 percent of the children who received free or reduced price lunch in New Jersey last year had access to these healthy meals during their summer vacation.
This year, there are 98 organizations participating in the SFSP, with 1,100 sites around the state.
Last school year, 83 percent of Perth Amboy’s public school students received free or reduced price school meals. The city began administering the Summer Food Service Program to serve that population in 2007. Since then, the number of sites and the amount of children served has increased significantly.
Perth Amboy is now delivering free summer lunches at 40 sites to 2,154 children ages 4 to 18 on a daily basis. The sites include churches, public school summer programs, various day camps and the City of Perth Amboy indoor and outdoor recreational programs, including six park programs.
“I have seen the benefits of this program that serve our children and teenagers during the summer months,” said Mayor Wilda Diaz. “This ensures that our youth receive a nutritional, well-balanced lunch through the various programs that the community and the City of Perth Amboy hosts.”
Besides serving lunch, Fisher also premiered a new promotional video for the SFSP, which can be seen here:
Begun 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 are mentally or physically handicapped and who participate in public or nonprofit private programs established for the disabled.
The program reimburses participating organizations for meals served to children who live in areas in which at least 50 percent of the children qualify for free or reduced-price meals under the National School Lunch Program.
Most participating organizations may be reimbursed for up to two meals a day – lunch and either breakfast or a snack. 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 they 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 also administers The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), which provides federally-donated commodities to six emergency feeding organizations statewide for distribution to hundreds of soup kitchens, food pantries and public feeding sites serving the state’s neediest citizens. In addition, the State Food Purchase Program provides state funds to the food banks for the purchase of healthy foods for the feeding sites.
For more information on the Summer Food Service Program, visit www.nj.gov/agriculture/divisions/fn/childadult/summer_food.html.
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