On Friday, Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) signed two bills that will address food insecurity for students in New Jersey, according to a press release.
The first piece of legislation will require schools to provide free breakfasts and lunches to students from both middle-income and working-class families. The second bill will necessitate that food authorities provide sufficient education to parents about current and prospective options for school meals.
Factors like the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and an increase in the cost of living have exacerbated the problem of food insecurity for families throughout the state, according to the release. The new legislation will help families to utilize already available resources to adequately support children.
“For many children throughout New Jersey, the meals they receive in school are their only source of food each day,” said Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-29). “That is why universal free lunch at school is a goal our state should strive to make a reality, and today, we take a step closer in order to help all struggling families, which is not specific exclusively to low-income ones.”
Proper nutrition helps students increase information retention and test performance, according to the release. As such, both bills will help families gain access to resources that benefit financial stability as well as their children’s nutrition.
“Consistent access to healthy meals is a fundamental human right, a fact that became all too clear for New Jersey families as they struggled to make ends meet amid a global pandemic,” Murphy said. “We’ve fought hard alongside our students’ parents to provide our children with the tools they need to grow and excel, and today, we demonstrate our intent to double those efforts in the battle against food insecurity.”