State program provides nutritious meals for children in summer

New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher encourages organizations to help provide nutritious meals to children during the summer through the department’s Summer Food Service Program.

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The program began in 1976 as an outgrowth of the National School Lunch Program. The summer option is designed to reach those who are 18 or younger in economically disadvantaged areas. It also is open to people over 18 who have intellectual, developmental or physical disabilities and who participate in public or nonprofit private programs established for individuals with disabilities, according to a press release from the Department of Agriculture.

In the 2021-’22 school year, 717 School Food Authorities – with a total of 2,617 sites – participated in the National School Lunch Program’s seamless summer option to provide more than 147 million lunches and 81 million breakfasts free to all children 18 and under.

In 2022, 158 organizations participated in the summer program, serving more than 11 million nutritious meals that included breakfast, lunches, dinners and snacks to more than 1,200 sites.

The deadline for submission of summer program applications is March 20. Learn more at

The federally funded meal program reimburses participating organizations for food served to children who live in areas where at least 50% of children qualify for free or reduced-price meals under the national lunch program.

Applicants may include public or private nonprofit school food authorities; units of local, municipal, county or state governments; public or private nonprofits; residential summer camps; or national youth sports programs. Organizations approved to sponsor the summer food program are responsible for managing the feeding sites.

Most participating organizations may be reimbursed for up to two meals a day: breakfast, lunch, dinner and/or snacks. Meals may also be reimbursed for nights and weekends. Those serving primarily migrant children may be reimbursed for up to three meals a day.

Residential camps may serve up to three meals a day, but are reimbursed only for meals served to children eligible for free or reduced-price meals under the national program.

In addition to the summer meal program, the agriculture department’s Division of Food and Nutrition administers a number of programs devoted to improving the quality and provision of food to state residents, particularly those most in need. They include school nutrition programs and the Child and Adult Care Food Program.

The division also administers the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), which distributes federally donated food to six emergency feeding organizations statewide. The donations are distributed to more than 800 soup kitchens, food pantries and public feeding sites serving the state’s neediest citizens.

For more information on the Summer Food Service Program or to obtain an application, call (609) 292-4498.

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