New Jersey has taken a big step to combat child hunger with the enactment of the Working Class Families Anti-Hunger Act, expanding free meal eligibility.
Signed by Governor Phil Murphy on Tuesday, January 16th, the new law extends the eligibility for free school meals to over 60,000 additional families across the state.
The initiative is part of the National School Lunch Program and the federal School Breakfast Program, now accommodating families with an annual income up to 224% of the federal poverty level with free meals.
Governor Murphy emphasized the importance of this move and the free meals, stating, “Access to nutritious food is a basic necessity for our kids. We have made great strides in our fight against food insecurity, working together with those on the front lines to ensure our most vulnerable community members have access to a warm meal and empowering our schools to meet the needs of their students.”
The governor’s statement added, “Expanding student eligibility under the Working Class Families Anti-Hunger Act will provide more of New Jersey’s young learners with a free school lunch and breakfast so that they can go to class ready to learn rather than wondering where their next meal will come from.”
New Jersey Assemblywoman Shama Haider reported that in 2019, nearly 200,000 children across the state faced food insecurity.
She explained that this law would provide thousands of children with access to food that they might not have had access to in the past.
Haider stated, “[There are] hundreds of thousands of children who don’t know where their next meal is coming from or if they’ll have a next meal. By giving more students access to meals, we are providing a lifeline for them and their families.”