Summer program provides food, fun to N.J. children in need

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Seventy-one percent of underprivileged children in New Jersey go hungry each summer. A local program is working to change that by providing meals and fun for children when school is out. (WPVI)

Seventy-one percent of underprivileged children in New Jersey go hungry each summer.

A local program is working to change that by providing meals and fun for children when school is out.

During lunchtime at the Boys & Girls Club on Centre Street in Trenton, roughly 300 kids eat a healthy meal they might not otherwise get.

"If they didn't have the meals that we serve every day, some of the kids wouldn't eat, unfortunately. We have breakfast, we provide lunch," said Boys & Girls Club Executive Director Reggie Coleman.

Its part of the Federal Summer Food Service Program, a companion to the free and reduced breakfast and lunch programs kids get during the school year.

Experts say continuing a cost-free source of nutritious food for low-income kids during the summer is critical.

"Statewide there are 340,000 kids that live in households that often don't know where the next meal is coming from," said Lisa Pitz, New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition.

In towns like Trenton, Camden and Atlantic City, every child under 18 is eligible to participate in the summer food program. The state is trying to get the word out to parents.

"We have 98 cities that are area eligible so it's really important for us to just raise that awareness where those locations are, what meals are being served, what time the meal services are," said Program Coordinator Stephanie Sutton-Page.

Sutton-Page coordinates the program through the New Jersey Department of Agriculture. She says right now there are over 1,200 feeding sites in New Jersey, like one near Cadwalader Park that's sponsored by the city of Trenton.

The state is looking to expand partnerships with more towns, churches, libraries and food banks.

"We really are looking for those community-based solutions to end summer hunger," said Sutton-Page.

Currently about 85,000 kids in New Jersey participate in this free program, but that's only 19 percent of those eligible. Folks at the Federal Summer Food Service Program want families to sign up so no children go hungry this summer.

For information about a feeding site near you, you can call 609-292-4498 or click here.
Related Topics:
healthnew jersey newshungerchildren's healthhealthcheckTrenton
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