The New Jersey Department of Agriculture is encouraging agencies to sponsor meals for the department's summer nutrition program. In a February 15 statement, New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas Fisher requested organizations' assistance in the Department's Summer Food Service Program, which provides nutritious meals to children in low-income areas during the summer.
The program was begun in 1976 as an outgrowth of the National School Lunch Program. The Summer Food Service Program seeks to reach students who are 18 or younger in economically disadvantaged areas. In addition, it is open to people over 18 who have mental or physical handicaps and who participate in public or non-profit private programs for the disabled.
As the New Jersey Department of Agriculture explains:
"The federally-funded 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."
A variety of organizations can apply to the program. Applicants include public or private non-profit school food authorities, local or state governments as well as residential summer camps or national youth sports programs.
Over 422,408 children in New Jersey receive free or reduced-price meals during the school year under the National School Lunch Program. However, in 2014, only 20 percent of New Jersey students participating in the National School Lunch Program had access to nutritious meals over the summer.
In 2014, 100 organizations took part in the Summer Food Service Program to ensure that children had access to good food during the summer.
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