Agriculture Department kicks off Summer Food program to keep low-income kids from going hungry

TRENTON – The Department of Agriculture has kicked off its Summer Food Service Program today.

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. Officials said 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.

“Good nutrition is essential for children to succeed in school,” said Agriculture Department Secretary Doug 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.”

This year, there are 98 organizations participating in the SFSP, with 1,100 feeding sites around the state.  A list of sponsors can be found here:  www.nj.gov/agriculture/divisions/fn/pdf/summersponsors.xls.

One of the cities in New Jersey participating is Perth Amboy in Middlesex County. The city is delivering free summer lunches at 40 sites to 2,154 children between ages 4 and 18.  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.”

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.

Agriculture Department kicks off Summer Food program to keep low-income kids from going hungry