Tens of thousands of kids in New Jersey who normally get free or low-cost lunch in school don’t have access to those meals in the summer — and child advocates are worried.
Just 20 percent of the kids who are eligible for the federally funded meals have a place to get them in the summertime, said Cecilia Zalkind, executive director of Advocates for Children of New Jersey.
“School is not in session. You don’t have the ease of serving in the classroom,” she said. “You have kids who may be out on vacation for part of the summer, not in a program. It just appears to be more complicated than it is.”
Zalkind is urging towns and community groups to come up with creative ways of making sure children get the nutrition they need.
“School districts can be involved, but it can be done by community agencies, by cities, by a combination of all three. And it’s not a question of money,” she said. “If summer meals are served, it will bring more money into the state, as much as $7 million.”
Perth Amboy shows how it can be done by pairing its summer meals program for kids with a literacy program at several locations in the city, Zalkind said.