Kids and Teens Get Free Summer Lunches in Little Egg Harbor

School, FoodBank Strive to ‘Fulfill’ Growing Need
Jun 20, 2017

There is such a thing as a free lunch, at least in Little Egg Harbor Township this summer.

Most kids around the state are probably celebrating the end of the 2016-2017 school year. You know, “No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks.”

But some children may be dreading the end of the school year. Many kids and teens depend on school lunches to fill their bellies and meet their nutritional needs.

“The time of year in the United States an American child is most likely to go hungry is the summertime, and the principal reason for that is school is out,” Kevin Concannon, undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer services with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) told NBC News.

That same NBC report said that about 21.4 million American children receive free or reduced-prices lunches at school on a typical school day, according to the USDA. Some of the nation’s neediest kids also received free breakfasts, snacks, dinner and even backpacks of weekend food through schools.

But, the NBC report continued, only about 3 million kids were fed through the government’s Summer Food Service program, which provides summer meals to kids through schools and community organizations.

If you think childhood hunger is limited to inner cities, you’re wrong.

According to New Jersey Department of Education data, the Little Egg Harbor School District served 1,570 students in 2016-2017, and 594 were eligible for free lunch, while another 128 qualified for reduced lunch prices!

The NJDOE says that of 1,568 students attending Pinelands Regional High School in the recently concluded school year, 447 got free lunches while an additional 136 paid a reduced price.

Tuckerton Elementary School enrollment last year was 280 students, and 67 eligible for free lunches while 35 more had a family income low enough to qualify for reduced prices, according to the DOE.

Eagleswood Elementary School had, according to state figures, 141 students in the last school year; 51 got to eat lunch for free while a dozen got a discount.

The Bass River Township School District, the final constituent district of the Pinelands Regional School District, had 102 students last year; 21 received free lunches while six paid a reduced amount.

That means almost 1,500 students living within the confines of the Pinelands Regional School District geographical area could go hungry this summer! And that’s not even counting toddlers who haven’t reached school age.

The Little Egg Harbor School District, partnering with Fulfill – formerly known as the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties – is doing something about that situation this summer. It will run a free summer meals program for children 18 years of age or younger each Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. from June 26 through Aug. 24 (excepting July 3 and 4 due to the holiday) at the site of the Little Egg Harbor Community Center located at 319 West Calabreeze Way.

To repeat, the program is open to all children 18 and younger and it is totally free! No registration is required.

The menus can be found on the Little Egg Harbor School District website at lehsd.k12.nj.us.

Questions? Call 609-296-1719, extension 1019.

— Rick Mellerup

rickmellerup@thesandpaper.net

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