(TRENTON) – In New Jersey, it is estimated that 13.2 percent of children are suffering from hunger. Seeking to tackle the issue and increase participation in school meal programs, a bill (A-4062) sponsored by Assembly Democrats Pamela Lampitt, Annette Quijano and Britnee Timberlake to create promotional materials was signed into law by the Governor on Monday.

“Proper nutrition is essential to a child’s success in the classroom and it’s crucial to their social and emotional development,” said Lampitt (D-Camden, Burlington). “The problem is, while the programs exist, many low-income families are not filling out the forms necessary to qualify. Whether for fear of being stigmatized or in some cases because of undocumented status, it is imperative the information is out there so those with the need can benefit.”

Under the new law, the Department of Agriculture in cooperation with the Department of Education will be tasked to develop promotional materials for the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, and the Summer Food Service Program.

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“What we’re creating with this law is a coordinated effort that not only stops shaming, but increases participation in meal programs,” said Quijano (D-Union). “There are parents and students alike that are not getting the financial assistance they need through school meal programs, simply because they don’t know about them or don’t want to identify themselves as struggling. Promoting programs that provide nutritious food during school, after school and even throughout summer for their health benefits can help change people’s perceptions.”

“A child learns better when they are not hungry, especially when filled with healthy foods,” said Timberlake (D-Essex, Passaic). “By working with families and promoting healthy meal programs, we can help remove financial obstacles that prevent families from having access healthy eating and break down barriers imposed by social and economic differences among students.”

The promotional materials – which could take the form of pamphlets, presentations, webinars and sample letters from schools to parents – will be provided to school districts and serve to highlight the importance of proper nutrition.

The law was approved unanimously, 75-0, in the full Assembly in December 2019.