Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Adam Taliaferro, Bob Andrzejczak, Pamela Lampitt, Gabriela Mosquera and Jamel Holley to establish the “Nourishing Young Minds Initiative Fund” gained final legislative approval unanimously from the full Assembly on Thursday.
The bill (A-4363) would create a non-lapsing, revolving fund in the Department of Agriculture to support child food nutrition programs in the state through monies appropriated annually by the legislature, federal and other grants received by the state, and any other money made available for the purposes of the fund.
“Establishing a more stable fund for school nutrition programs is exactly what is needed for their survival,” said Taliaferro (D-Salem, Cumberland, Gloucester). “Without these programs many children in the state would go without having at least one nutritional meal a day. Nutritional programs are a great service to our communities and deserve a stable funding mechanism in place to ensure they will be around for future generations.”
“There remains a great need for programs such as breakfast after the bell and summer nutrition programs. By working together, we can ensure these critical programs will continue to serve children throughout New Jersey,” said Andrzejczak. “That’s why this bill brings the Departments of Education and Agriculture together to facilitate the requirements of the “Nourishing Young Minds Initiative Fund,” further ensuring the success of nutritional programs in the state.”
Monies in the “Nourishing Young Minds Initiative Fund” would be used by the Department Agriculture, in consultation with the Department of Education, for:
(1) Funding outreach and programmatic support by the Department of Agriculture, Department of Education, or community-based organizations;
(2) Providing small grants to fund one-time startup or expansion costs of “breakfast after the bell” programs; and
(3) Providing small grants to fund one-time start-up or expansion costs of summer nutrition programs.
(4) Funding would be prioritized for award to districts or schools with the highest number of eligible students and lowest participation in the school breakfast program.
“Countless studies have shown that proper nutrition is a major factor in a student’s ability to succeed in school,” said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). “We need to find innovative ways to provide our students with every advantage possible to support their education.”
“It’s an unfortunate fact of life that not every family can afford to provide the proper nutrition for their children,” said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester). “As a state we need to find innovative ways to step in and fill that void so every child has a level playing field.”
“Without a healthy breakfast to start the day, young developing children often exhibit a lack energy, the inability to focus and a host of other disadvantages that affect their education outcome,” said Holley (D-Union). “This fund will help ensure that doesn’t happen.”
The legislation now heads to the Governor’s desk.