Cut to school lunch funding draws rebukes

TRENTON –Agriculture Commissioner Doug Fisher told an Assembly Budget Committee Thursday the number of people participating in school lunches has increased from 673,000 to 685,000.

After hearing this, Assemblyman Gary Schaer, (D-36), Passaic, asked how could the administration have reduced the school lunch funding program by $3 million.

“I have not reached any conclusion,” Fisher said about the administration’s decision to make that cut.

“We’re making hard choices every day,” Fisher said.

“Not with children’s bellies,” Schaer said.

For fiscal year 2012, the school lunch/breakfast program, which is paid for by federal funds, increased $3 million, to $339 million, largely because of the higher cost of food. However, a separate $3 million state aid grant that is used to reimburse school districts that was cut in 2010 has not been restored in the 2011-12 budget.

Assemblywoman Nellie Pou, (D-35), Paterson, said many kids in her school districts wait early in the morning outside the doors for school breakfasts. She said, many times, that is the only meal they eat during the school day.

However, she believed the $3 million state aid cut for school lunch and breakfast program was draconian.

“You cannot continue to do this on the backs of the people who could least afford them,” she said. “We cannot continue to create greater hardships on the most vulnerable people.”

  Cut to school lunch funding draws rebukes