Summer Meals Sites Grow for NJ Kids During Pandemic

Amid all the worries that families have had to cope with during the pandemic, here is a bit of good news: New Jersey communities are ramping up the distribution of free, healthy meals for kids this summer.

The New Jersey Department of Agriculture estimates that free meals will be distributed at more than 2,300 sites – a nearly 70 percent increase over the number of sites serving these meals last summer, according to state statistics.

This includes meals being distributed at schools, parks, playgrounds, housing developments, camps and other child-related programs. The meals are funded through federal child nutrition programs.

To ensure safety, many sites are providing “grab-n-go’’ meals, so parents can simply pick up meals at designated times. Many sites are also offering several days worth of meals at one time.

“Thousands of New Jersey children face hunger every summer, but we know the need is even more extreme this summer,’’ said Adele LaTourette, director, Hunger Free New Jersey. “Food pantries and soup kitchens just can’t keep up with the demand. So we commend New Jersey communities for stepping up to fill the gap.’’

Since many of these sites will be new, it is critical to alert parents to the availability of these meals in their communities, LaTourette added.

“Getting the word out is always a challenge but, again, this summer even more so as there are so many new sites,’’ she noted.

To help spread the word about summer meals, the New Jersey Food for Thought Campaign, has created a slate of resources, including a flyer, social media messages and other communications tools, said LaTourette, whose organization leads the campaign.

“We are working with our many partners to spread the word about summer meals,’’ LaTourette said. “But we encourage everyone to help get the word out.’’

At most sites, parents and guardians do not have to enroll to participate, nor do they have to show identification when picking up meals.

To find meal sites, text “food” to 877-877, call 1-866-3HUNGRY or visit summerfoodrocks.org.

View summer meals marketing tools.

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