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Assembly Education Committee Advances Legislation That Would Establish Online Applications for School Meals Programs

Wimberly-, Reynolds-Jackson-, and Karabinchak-Sponsored Bill Seeks to Streamline Access to Nutritious Meals for Students 

(TRENTON) Aiming to reduce the number of students facing hunger during the school day, the Assembly Education Committee advanced legislation on Monday that would task the New Jersey Department of Agriculture with creating online applications for school meal programs. The bill, A3260, was sponsored by Assembly members Benjie E. Wimberly, Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, and Robert J. Karabinchak. 

“Ensuring easy access to nutritious meals is essential for the well-being of our students,” said Assemblyman Wimberly (D-Bergen, Passaic). “By promoting the availability of these programs and streamlining the application process, we provide New Jersey students with a level of care that supports their growth and achievement.”

“Healthy eating habits are fundamental for success within the classroom,” said Assemblywoman Reynolds-Jackson (D-Mercer, Hunterdon). “Through A3260, we stand committed to addressing the pervasive issue of food insecurity, ensuring it remains outside the walls of our schools.”

In addition to legislatively creating the online school meal programs applications, Bill A3260 also requires school districts to make every effort to ensure that income-eligible students are not recognized as program participants. These efforts could include, but are not limited to, the establishment of a meal plan or voucher system under which the students receiving subsidized breakfasts are not distinguished from students receiving non-subsidized breakfasts.

The legislation would require schools to provide paper applications as they also begin to offer them online while also publicizing the availability of the programs to parents and students.

Under the bill, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture would create the online applications in consultation with the state’s Department of Education.

“By modernizing the process for school-meal applications, we are expanding access for more families who may need this vital resource,” said Assemblyman Karabinchak (D-Middlesex). “Ensuring children are actively involved in the classroom is crucial, and a key aspect of achieving this is guaranteeing they receive a nutritious meal without any worries.”

 This legislation is the latest in a series of actions Assembly Democrats have taken to combat food insecurity, particularly hunger faced by New Jersey students during the course of their school days. This bill complements recent state initiatives, such as implementing the federally funded Summer EBT program, which ensures that the end of the school year does not mean the end of nutritious meals.