The New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher announced that its department now has summer meals available at over 2,400 sites around the state this summer. With the troubling effects of COVID-19 on families and businesses alike, the USDA has granted all communities, including those that are under 50 percent eligible for free or reduced-price school meals, the cultivating opportunity to offer feeding sites to expand the program to children in the community.

Through a combination of summer food services and the school nutrition programs, the feeding program has a tremendous impact on individuals throughout New Jersey. The NJDOA’s Summer Food Service Program, currently has 161 sponsors representing 1,083 sites, and through the Seamless Summer Option, the school program has 598 sponsors representing 1,323 sites.

“One of our first priorities, when the pandemic began, was to make sure children had access to healthy meals,” Secretary Fisher said. “With the USDA’s Seamless Summer Option, along with the Summer Food Service Program, more meals are being provided to meet essential needs in this unprecedented time.”

Beginning in 1976 as an outgrowth of the National School Lunch Program, the Summer Food Service Program had the mission to ensure those who are age 18 or younger in low-income areas have access to meals while school is out. It was designed so that it would also be open to people over 18 who are mentally or physically handicapped and who participate in public or nonprofit private programs established for the disabled.

The federally funded Summer Food Service Program reimburses participating organizations for meals served to children who live in areas in which at least 50 percent of the children qualify for free or reduced-price meals under the National School Lunch Program.

Schools participating in the National School Lunch or School Breakfast Program are eligible to apply for the Seamless Summer Option. The Seamless Summer Option is another way for schools to feed children during the summer months. Once approved by the State agency, the school serves meals free of charge to children, including teenagers through age 18, under the school meal program rules.

To access the schools and sites where the program is offered, visit https://www.fns.usda.gov/meals4kids.

To learn more about the Summer Food Service Program or how to become a sponsor, visit http://bit.ly/V233JR. To find a feeding site near you, call the National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-3-HUNGRY (1-866-348-6479) or text Food to 877-877.

To learn more about the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, find them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/NJDeptofAgriculture and www.facebook.com/JerseyFreshOfficial or Twitter @NJDA and @JerseyFreshNJDA.