New Jersey Assistant Secretary of Agriculture Joe Atchison III, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service and local representatives recently highlighted the success of the Summer Food Service Program in New Jersey with a visit to the Raritan Bay Area YMCA Summer Stars Day Camp lunch at the Rose M. Lopez Elementary School in Perth Amboy, Middlesex County.

According to the Food Research & Action Center, New Jersey is ranked No. 1 in the nation for providing summer lunch to children from households who participated in the free or reduced price lunch program during the school year.

Last year, more than 11 million summer meals were served to New Jersey children who qualified for the Summer Food Service Program. This year, there have been 1,250 feeding sites and 170 sponsors for the Summer Food Service Program in the state.

“Summer Food Service provides an opportunity for children and those who are eligible to receive healthy meals throughout the summer,” Atchison said. “The top ranking is a credit to the work by our Division of Food and Nutrition and the many partners that engage in this program. The commitment of the City of Perth Amboy, the YMCA, the USDA and the Perth Amboy Public Schools to administer these summer meals, is a great example of the success that can take place when there is a collaborative effort.”

The Perth Amboy Summer Food Service Program takes place at 35 sites and served more than 60,000 combined breakfasts and lunches in July. There are approximately 4,000 children who participate in the program in Perth Amboy.

“As we work to fight hunger in New Jersey, it’s important to recognize milestones achieved while also acknowledging how much work is still to be done,” said Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin. “I’m proud that New Jersey is the top state in the nation for providing summer lunches to children, and our local organizations deserve credit for making sure our children don’t go hungry.”

During the visit, the children were served a turkey, ham and cheese sandwich on whole wheat bread, with apple juice, chocolate milk and apple sauce.

“When the school year ends, the nutrition needs for children continue,” Perth Amboy Director of Human Services Dianne Roman said. “We work to ensure that healthy meal options are available during the summer to all who are eligible. We know that hunger does not take a summer break.”

Started in 1976 as an outgrowth of the National School Lunch Program, Summer Food Service is designed to ensure those who are age 18 or younger in low-income areas have access to meals while school is out. It also is open to people over 18 who have intellectual, developmental, or physical disabilities and who participate in public or nonprofit private programs that support individuals with disabilities.

The federally funded program reimburses participating organizations for meals served to children who live in areas in which at least 50% of the children qualify for free or reduced-price meals under the National School Lunch Program. Most participating organizations may be reimbursed for up to two meals a day – lunch and either breakfast or a snack.

To learn more about the Summer Food Service Program or how to become a sponsor, visit this website. 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.