New Jersey may subsidize federally funded school meals

David Madden
October 16, 2019 - 3:32 pm
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TRENTON, N.J. (KYW Newsradio) — Cherry Hill’s school board adopted a new subsidized meal program after some parents complained about how it was being administered. Now there’s a move in the New Jersey legislature to address those issues long term.

The main problem in Cherry Hill, and elsewhere, was that some families who met federal guidelines for discounted breakfasts and lunches for their kids allowed their share to go unpaid. 

A measure to be introduced in Trenton would use state money to cover what the federal government doesn't pay for those subsidized meals, leaving those parents with no bill to worry about.

State Sen. Teresa Ruiz, chair of the education committee, wants to combine those partial payers with those getting their meals totally free.

"If we eliminated, ultimately, those two categories it would only cost the state $4 million more,” she told KYW Newsradio.

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Some 66,000 students statewide meet income guidelines for partially subsidized meals. Almost 450,000 more get them free of charge, according to figures from the New Jersey Department of Agriculture.

Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin is sponsoring a companion bill in that chamber. Hopes are to get the measure approved by the end of June.

Ruiz also stresses that the federal reimbursement is the same for every state in the nation. 

That doesn’t take local costs into account and will need to be addressed long term.