By: Rachel Suga, Writer / Follow South Jersey Bridgeton City Intern
BRIDGETON, N.J. — Bridgeton Public School District has recently released an update as to how it plans on helping feed the community.
As of November 30, the school district will distribute meals to the surrounding area’s citizens in various locations over the upcoming holiday season. According to the district’s homepage, meals were already distributed on November 30 and December 3, but there will be other food distribution events on future dates.
Food can be picked up by students on December 7, 10, 14, 17, 21, and 23. Broad Street School, Indian Avenue School, ExCEL Program, and Buckshutem Road School are all sites for serving meals. You can find more information about the feeding sites here.
Bridgeton Mayor Albert B. Kelly recognized the district’s efforts to feed the community throughout the pandemic, in a column for NJ.com. Although the ratio of department employees to students is very disproportionate, Kelly noted that their work did not go unnoticed.
“I was impressed and gratified to learn that the Bridgeton public school district’s Food Service Department had served over 1 million meals to Bridgeton students between March and October,” Kelly said. “This includes breakfast, lunch and dinner served while school was in session, as well as meals served through the summer months.”
The mayor explained that the school district’s actions were critical in helping students, as the poverty rate for minors in the city is nearly 42% and 32.2% overall, according to Kelly. Food insecurity is a significant concern in Cumberland County, with 87% of children qualifying to receive a free or reduced-price subsidized meal from their schools. In Bridgeton alone, 95% of students are eligible, Kelly said.
While the prices of food — like fruits and vegetables — have fluctuated and made it difficult for the district to stay within a budget per meal, the Bridgeton Public School District has continued to feed its students. The district follows the standards of the federal and state agriculture departments so students can receive proper nutrition while not leaving school hungry.
“Moving over 1 million meals out the door to feed some 6,000 students is especially challenging because Bridgeton is one of only five school districts in the state that the New Jersey Department of Agriculture has labeled a ‘food hub,’” Kelly said. “It means that Bridgeton qualifies to offer every student nutrition program available, including breakfast, lunch, dinner, after-school snacks, and summer feeding when school is not in session. And, that’s no small thing.”
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This article was produced by a Follow South Jersey news intern thanks to a grant provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through the New Jersey Health Initiatives program to create hyper-local news to meet the informational and health needs of the City of Bridgeton, N.J.