Governor Phil Murphy, fulfilling a promise to families in New Jersey, signed the Working-Class Families’ Anti-Hunger Act (A2368/S1677) into law, a bill that would increase income eligibility for free school meals. This legislation, sponsored by Speaker Craig Coughlin, Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt, Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, Senator Teresa Ruiz, and Senator Joseph Vitale, would ensure that about 25,000 more New Jersey children are fed, focused and ready to learn.
“The past two years have been very hard on working families, and with the cost of housing and food skyrocketing many families have trouble making ends meet. The Working-Class Families’ Anti-Hunger Act will provide much needed relief to many families across the state.” said Lisa Pitz, Director of Hunger Free New Jersey. “Thank you to Governor Murphy, Senator Ruiz, and especially Speaker Coughlin, without whom this legislation would not have reached the Governor’s desk. We are grateful to the Speaker’s lifelong commitment to helping hungry people, especially children.”
Under this bill, the income eligibility level for free school meals will be adjusted up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level, meaning the children of a family of four making an annual income of up to $55,500 would now be eligible for free breakfast and lunch at school. Nearly 175,000 children in New Jersey face hunger every day, and this can impact their health and well-being.
“Hunger can have serious, negative impacts on a student’s academic performance. No child’s grades should suffer because they’re dealing with the physical and emotional effects of hunger,” said Pitz.
The consequences of hunger on our students are well documented. Children who struggle with hunger not only have a harder time learning but are also more likely to struggle with chronic illnesses, mental health issues and behavioral problems and these problems can follow children throughout their lives.
Hunger Free New Jersey is grateful to a strong coalition of organizations in New Jersey who backed this legislation, legislative leaders, the bill sponsors, and Governor Murphy for championing these important measures, and putting kids first.