Assemblyman Schaer Joins Forces with Anti-Hunger Advocates to Speak Out Against State Budget Cuts to School Meals

LYNDHURST, NJ – In conjunction with the New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition and Lyndhurst Commissioner of Public Affairs Brian Haggerty, Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-Passaic) today outlined the severe cuts to school breakfast and lunch programs that continue to exist in Governor Christie’s state budget. Assemblyman Schaer, Vice Chair of the New Jersey Assembly Budget Committee, described how the cuts will affect local communities in the 36th Legislative District. According to October 2009 data supplied by the NJ Department of Agriculture, each day an average of about 560 students in Lyndhurst participate in the school lunch program, with over half of those children getting free or reduced price lunch.

“The elimination of state funding for the school breakfast program and the deep cut to our lunch programs will have far reaching implications throughout New Jersey’s education system,” Assemblyman Schaer said. “It is critical to point out that these programs serve all segments of New Jersey’s child population – one can find students participating in suburban, rural and urban communities throughout our state; 284 here in Lyndhurst.”

Assemblyman Schaer was joined at the Lyndhurst food pantry by Lyndhurst Commissioner of Public Affairs (with oversight of the Lyndhurst Food Pantry) Brian Haggerty, Adele LaTourette of the NJ Anti-Hunger Coalition, which has spearheaded the opposition to these cuts, and Annette Bortone, President of the Lyndhurst Women’s Club and coordinator of local efforts to re-stock food pantries.

At the end of 2008, the Lyndhurst Food Pantry was assisting 10 families and 33 individuals. At the close of 2009, this number had increased to 112 families and 295 individuals.

Governor Christie’s proposed budget cuts eliminate $3 million in state funding to school breakfasts and $2.9 million in school lunch. These cuts will affect families that struggle every day to make ends meet, many of whom have become recently unemployed due to the recession which has hit New Jersey hard, and that come to local food pantries for help. The cuts may also make it increasingly difficult for schools to provide nutritious meals that children need in order to learn effectively.

“For many children from across New Jersey’s income spectrum, these cuts will take away some of the best nutrition they receive everyday. Students who are hungry disrupt class and hold back other children who need to learn. Cuts in the budget will increase class size and reduce teaching assistants in the classroom. Hungry children will cause a perfect storm here in Lyndhurst, in other communities throughout New Jersey and our state’s reputation for educational excellence will be tarnished. I believe the Governor’s cuts are shortsighted and will cost taxpayers more money over the long-term,” Assemblyman Schaer concluded.

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