A bill requiring expanding eligibility for free school breakfasts and lunches was recently moved forward by the Assembly Agriculture and Food Security Committee.
According to sponsor Assembly Speaker Craig J. Coughlin (D-19), The Working Class Families Anti-Hunger Act is targeted to aid students from middle income families.
“The Working Class Families Anti-Hunger 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.
“As many working families continue to feel the financial toll of the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be difficult at times to put food on the table. By expanding eligibility for free breakfast and lunch programs, this legislation provides families with the support they need in times of financial uncertainty and helps to ensure that no student is forced to go hungry,” said Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt (D-6), who served as a sponsor of the bill.
Boosting Academic Achievement
The law would also help academic achievement, according to Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (D-27), another sponsor of the bill.
“Ensuring they have a healthy start in the morning and are nourished throughout the school day sets our children up for academic success,” she said. “By expanding the requirements for the free school meal program, we can reach more children around the state and assist more families in their time of need.”
If signed into law, the bill would require all schools within New Jersey to serve free breakfast and lunch to students from middle-income families.
Redefining Middle Income
A “middle-income family” would be defined as any family with an annual household income amounting to not less than 186% and not more than 199% of the federal poverty level (FPL).
The sponsors noted reimbursement provisions would be similar to current law, and would bridge the gap for students who are eligible for reduced price meals. Under the law, the state will reimburse schools for the difference between the federal allocation for reduced price meals and the total costs of meals served.
For students who do not meet that federal limit but meet the state’s criteria, funding would be allocated to reimburse the costs associated with the free meals.