(TRENTON) — Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Jason O’Donnell, Joseph Cryan, Mila Jasey and Nancy Pinkin that would require schools to notify parents before denying children meals at school due to nonpayment received final legislative approval Thursday.
“This bill will help ensure that a student is not suddenly denied a school breakfast or lunch because the district determines that the student’s food bill is in arrears,” said O’Donnell (D-Hudson). “In order to put the student’s best interests first, we need to take a compassionate, yet practical, approach when it comes this sensitive issue.”
The bill (A-1796) provides that a school district must contact a student’s parent or guardian to provide notice in case of a school breakfast or lunch bill being in arrears and provide him or her with 10 school days to pay the amount due.
If the parent or guardian does not make a payment within 10 school days, the district must then issue a second notice, informing the parent or guardian that meals will not be served to the student beginning one week from the date of the second notice, unless payment is made in full.
“There’s no way students can retain information without a healthy breakfast and lunch to get them through the day,” said Cryan (D-Union). “This legislation will go a long way toward making sure that children in New Jersey have the nutrition they need to focus and learn in the classroom.”
“The child nutrition programs offered through New Jersey’s schools are instrumental in making sure that young people can learn,” said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). “We need schools and parents to work together in order to best serve our children. This bill will foster that relationship and make sure that a lack of communication doesn’t result in hunger and humiliation for students at school.”
“There’s no reason a student should have to go hungry because mom or dad neglected to deposit a few dollars to his or her school lunch account,” said Pinkin (D-Middlesex). “Parents and schools have a common goal of making sure children have everything they need to learn, and this is a step toward making sure we reach it together. Allowing a brief grace period will help parents who may be struggling to make ends meet.”
The bill passed the Senate Thursday by a vote of 36-0. The Assembly passed the measure in March by a vote of 77-0. It now heads to the governor’s desk.