U.S. Department of Agriculture Extends Free Meal Program Through September 30

By: Kaitlyn Kudriavetz, Writer / Follow South Jersey Child Welfare Intern

Photo: Jon Bradley | Follow South Jersey

SOUTH JERSEY — Children will be able to continue receiving nutritious meals through the summer until September 30, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced.

“We want everyone to know these meals are available to every child in New Jersey,” Douglas Fisher, the Secretary of New Jersey’s Department of Agriculture, said. “The extension of these waivers for the summer feeding programs will allow this essential need to be met for all students.”

According to the USDA, there are 12 million children in the U.S. who may not have enough food to eat in the house, which makes access to summer meals critical. The waivers will be put into effect nationwide with the intention of providing a sense of meal security for those whose access to school-provided meals are uncertain due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

These meal sites will allow children under the age of 18 to safely get free meals, regardless of familial income. These meals are also made available to those over 18 years old who have mental or physical disabilities. Meal sites can include schools, parks, churches, community centers or libraries. To find operating sites, visit the USDA’s official website..

The waiver extension will allow meals to be served outside of the typically required group settings and meal times, and it will also make it possible for parents and/or guardians to pick up meals for their children in bulk.

“We will do everything we can to make sure children get access to healthy, nutritious meals regardless of their families’ financial circumstances,” USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a press release. “The USDA is committed to providing local operators with the flexibilities and resources they need to continue offering the best meal service possible to their children, given their day-to-day realities.”

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.