With Labor Day only a few days away, it seems most of us are divided into 2 camps – those who can’t wait for the return to a schedule and routine, and those who dread the approach of this holiday and the “unofficial” end to summer. For the children and families in NJ, Labor Day signals the beginning of the school year, and for those children who are food insecure, it thankfully marks the return of consistent breakfast and lunch provided to them at school.
There are over 400,000 children in NJ who receive free/reduced price school lunches – with 40% residing in the counties served by Table to Table (Bergen, Essex, Hudson, and Passaic). Half of all surveyed educators reported that hunger is a serious problem in their classrooms, leading to poor concentration on schoolwork and to classroom disruptions. In recent years, the introduction of the school breakfast program has been gaining popularity, especially when offered at the beginning of the day to all students in the classroom (known as “Breakfast after the Bell”). Surprisingly, this program has not only benefited those children in need, but also those from higher-income families whose parents can afford a small fee for breakfast at school and are pleased to know that their children are receiving a nutritious meal each morning.
Despite the effectiveness of breakfast and lunch school meal programs, NJ’s schools have been slow to jump on board, citing various reasons including space and time constraints, staffing and cleanup costs. We can understand the position of the schools – beyond providing a good education so much more has been added to their responsibilities. But we can’t ignore the importance of good nutrition for childhood development. The consequences of poor nutrition are well-documented – decreased intellectual and emotional growth, poor academic performance, and a higher risk of chronic health problems, especially for children living in poverty.
Because healthy, nutritious food is so critically important, Table to Table makes sure to deliver the fresh food it rescues year-round, focusing on programs serving families with children and continually providing the 3 most requested items – fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products, and lean proteins. Through the consistent and reliable delivery of this food to our mobile markets, day-care and after-school programs, urban schools, youth programs and housing groups, we help alleviate the hunger insecurity experienced by these children. Regardless of your position on the approaching holiday, you can be assured that families in the programs we serve are receiving the healthy meals they need to thrive during every season of the year.