A few New Jersey lawmakers want to end the stigma for students who are unable to afford school breakfasts and lunches by having the state pick up the tab.
Legislation set for a hearing in the state Senate Education Committee on Thursday would appropriate $4.5 million to cover the full cost of reduced-price school breakfasts and lunches beyond what federal reimbursements cover.
“This is an opportunity for the state of New Jersey to step up in a very significant way, and one that’s not really going to burden the budget but create multiple ripple effects in a positive way,” said Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex County), who sponsored the legislation.
The proposal comes after several high-profile incidents of school “lunch shaming,” including in Cherry Hill, where school officials recently instituted a policy banning some students with lunch debts from prom and certain field trips.
Ruiz said the proposal would also ensure that low-income students were eating more healthily.
Renee Koubiadis, executive director of the Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey, said students must maintain a nutritious diet to succeed in school.
“Not only is it stressful for the children and the parents, but we know it affects [students’] ability to be present and to function in school, to focus and pay attention to what they’re supposed to be learning,” she said.