New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed two bills today which aim to combat food insecurity among students across the state.
The first bill, A2368/S1677, which was sponsored by Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, requires New Jersey schools to provide free breakfasts and lunches to students from working-class and middle-income families.
An estimated 26,000 additional school children will now be eligible statewide.
Under the new law, a family of three earning $46,060 will now qualify, compared to the family earning $42,606 who previously qualified.
Previously, families who are at 185% of the federal poverty level were eligible for free and reduced lunch. This increases eligibility to those at 200% of the level.
The second bill, A2365/S1928, requires school food authorities to engage in public education campaigns and develop promotional materials to educate parents about existing and expanding school meals program options.
Together, the laws will help ensure equitable access to resources that simultaneously benefit children’s nutrition and support work families’ financial stability, the governor’s office said in a statement.
“Consistent access to healthy meals is a fundamental human right, a fact that became all too clear for New Jersey families as they struggled to make ends meet amid a global pandemic,” said Governor Murphy.
“We’ve fought hard alongside our students’ parents to provide our children with the tools they need to grow and excel, and today we demonstrate our intent to double those efforts in the battle against food insecurity. Crucially, by launching extensive public awareness campaigns, we will work to ensure that free, nutritious meals are not only available, but easily accessible, for every New Jersey student.”
The new law is expected to cost $19.2 million, which the state will pay to school districts.
The law will take effect in the 2023-2024 school year.
The bills are part of a larger package of new laws aimed at combatting food insecurity in the state which the Legislature passed in July.