The USDA-funded Summer Food Service Program, run locally by the Jersey City Department of Health and Human Services, will begin serving nutritious breakfasts and lunches to children and teens in low-income areas on June 28.
The free program, which runs until Aug. 27, ensures there is no gap in healthy food access during the summer months when school is out of session.
Even when the Jersey City Public School District was on a remote-only schedule due to the pandemic, the district provided free to-go breakfasts and lunches to children under 18 at roughly 20 locations regardless of what school they attended.
This summer the city will serve 225,000 meals throughout the eight-week program.
“It is critically important that we continue to support Jersey City families who are in need of food assistance, especially in our underserved communities,” said Mayor Steven Fulop. “This year we anticipate an even greater need as the pandemic has created tough circumstances for many of our residents. I encourage anyone in need to take advantage of these free meals. No registration is necessary. No questions asked.”
Summer is no exception
Jersey City anticipates increased demand for the program this summer as it saw increased demand for other meal programs during the pandemic.
At the height of the pandemic, the Department of Health and Human Services saw a 300 percent increase in demand for Meals on Wheels services, according to the city.
“This year, we will have more than 50 city-sponsored sites,” said Stacey Flanagan, director of the Jersey City Health and Human Services Department. “We are pleased that the USDA is continuing to allow flexible operating options like ‘grab and go’ and parent/guardian pick up, so that we can safely serve as many families as possible while we continue to manage through this ongoing public health crisis.”
Anyone in need of a meal can visit one of the 52 sites, including schools, parks, community centers, health clinics, and other certified and safe sites.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a 2019 study showed that nearly 11 million children live in “food insecure” households throughout the United States.
The nonprofit organization Feeding America projects that one in every six children, or 13 million children, nationwide may experience food insecurity in 2021, a roughly 2 million increase since 2019. According to the nonprofit, this increase is caused largely by the COVID-19 pandemic and the corresponding economic crisis.
To find a nearby site, visit the USDA map at https://tinyurl.com/3nuxybzx, text “Summer Meals” to 97779, or call 1-866-348-6479.