U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) joined with local educators, school administrators, education advocates and local leaders at Bogota High School on Sept. 8 to sound the alarm on the devastating impact a government shutdown would have on our kids in school and to announce his Stop School Hunger Strategy, according to a news release.

Such a shutdown, if it were to occur, would cut investments for the federal school meals program, which provides breakfast and lunch to millions of children  across the nation, the news release stated.

Gottheimer also announced that he helped the Bogota School District claw back from Washington nearly $150,000 dollars to improve the nutritional quality of meals, modernize operations and update and expand kitchens.

In New Jersey, about 400,000 children receive free or reduced-price breakfast and lunch, and nationwide, nearly 30 million children participate in the National School Lunch Program — 10.1 million more children than before the pandemic.

Stop School Hunger Strategy
  • First, as co-chair of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, Gottheimer is working to stop a potential government shutdown.
  • Second, he is fighting to pass the Universal School Meals Program Act — to provide breakfast and lunch to millions of children. Such a move would reduce the paperwork, cost and bureaucracy of operating the free school lunch program, he believes.
  • Third, he is helping lead the Expanding Access to School Meals Act to allow any child who qualifies for reduced meals to receive them at no cost. It also expands the poverty threshold for free school lunch from 130% to 200% of the federal poverty level. New Jersey has already taken these steps.
  • Lastly, he is working to cut the red tape and streamline the process for parents trying to enroll their kids in school meals programs. He is helping lead the No Hungry Kids in Schools Act to have the state centralize and streamline the school meal program with less paperwork. Schools would automatically qualify based on the need determined by the state. Nationwide, the administrative costs of analyzing these calculations and processing can cost school districts up to $100,000 a year, according to the news release.
Importance of School Meals

The news release outlines the importance of providing school meals, noting:

  • Three out of five public schoolteachers say that students regularly come to school hungry.
  • Hunger in the classroom decreases a student’s ability to focus and their physical activity, and causes stomachaches, headaches, depression and anxiety.
  • Students who skip breakfast generally make more errors, have slower memory recall and are more likely to be absent, tardy and to repeat a grade.
  • Students who eat breakfast and lunch have better vitamin and nutrient intake, healthier overall diets and less susceptibility to obesity.

The news release also outlines what could happen if the government shutdown occurs, including freezing new investments for the federal school meals program, Meals on Wheels for seniors, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children for lower-income pregnant and nursing women, babies, and young children and for SNAP to help lower-income families with their groceries.

Gottheimer was joined by Bergen County Education Association President Sue McBride, Uniserv Field Representative for Region 23 and 25 Carol Feinstein, Bogota Superintendent Damian Kennedy, Bogota High School Principal Dr. Jeannie Paz, Boys & Girls Clubs of Lower Bergen County Chief Executive Officer Joseph J. Licata, New Jersey School Boards Association’s Immediate Past President Irene LeFebvre, Hunger Free America CEO Joel Berg, Bogota School Board President Frank Miranda and Bogota School Board Treasurer Jose Chavez.

Learn more in the full news release.