Local children who might skipped lunch this summer are being fed wholesome, nutritious lunches as part of the United States Department of Agriculture’s stepped up program to target low-income families during the period when schools are not in session. The free summer lunch program is available for children under the age of 18 at Project Self-Sufficiency, Monday–Thursday, through Aug. 16. Project Self-Sufficiency is located at 127 Mill St. in Newton.
The same program will be launched at Brookside Terrace, located at 33 Mill St. in Newton, beginning Monday, July 16. Participants at the Brookside Terrace location must be Newton residents; those who choose to eat lunch at Project Self-Sufficiency have no residency requirements. However, income eligibility requirements apply for both locations, and both programs are operated by Project Self-Sufficiency. Children who are part of households who receive food stamps or benefits under the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) are automatically eligible.
Project Self-Sufficiency is one of 98 organizations across New Jersey offering free lunches to eligible students; last summer more than 51,000 lunches were distributed daily. However, that number pales in comparison to the 402,000 New Jersey youths who receive free or reduced-price meals during the school year. The state trend mirrors the national situation. Only 3 million children took advantage of the free summer lunch program last year, while more than 21 million children are fed throughout the school year. New Jersey ranks 13th in the country in reaching needy children, according to the Special Nutrition Program of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service.
“Project Self-Sufficiency is committed to helping families in our area to achieve economic self-sufficiency and family stability, and that goal goes hand-in-hand with addressing the issue of hunger in our community,” notes Deborah Berry-Toon, executive director of Project Self-Sufficiency. In addition to the summer lunch program, the agency offers participants a food pantry and has recently established an on-site garden to offer fresh-grown produce to participating families.
The Summer Food Service Program is a federal program of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Services. Meals are available without regard to race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability. Caregivers must remain with children while at Project Self-Sufficiency or at Brookside Terrace. Adults wishing to participate may purchase lunch with advanced registration. The meal program is free to eligible children, but registration for each child is required. Participants interested in attending the program at Brookside Terrace must register at Project Self-Sufficiency. To register, or to find out more about the free lunch program, call Project Self-Sufficiency at 973-940-3500.