NJ says almost all schools have plans for free, discount meals in shutdown
With all New Jersey schools shutting down their facilities this week, if they haven't already, students who rely on free and reduced-price meals from schools won't have their usual access through cafeteria.s
But contingency plans have been developed to make sure they’re not going hungry, state officials.
New Jersey Department of Education Commissioner Lamont Repollet said during a novel coronavirus update news conference on Monday that as efforts continue to aggressively mitigate the spread of the disease, the DOE has received preparedness plans from almost all New Jersey school districts addressing how they will deliver food to children who need it.
“Department staff is working closely with local emergency management offices to make sure that we leverage all of their available resources to safely and securely deliver meals to our students," he said.
But he didn't say during the conference which districts remain unprepared to get food to their students, with schools statewide switching to home instruction on Wednesday.
Repollet said depending on the needs of specific districts in different parts of the state, this effort may include working with local community food service groups and other organizations that provide nutrition support to their areas.
He said to assist districts that are still working to complete plans for food delivery, “the Department constructed a county local resource sheet that includes the county OEM contact, the major school food service management companies that operate in the county, and the sponsors of summer food programs as approved by the USDA."
He said these resources sheets provide “all-in-one location contact information that can assist with logistics of meal delivery, meal preparation coordinated with community providers.”
Repollet stressed all Jersey school districts are getting this information and to make sure this plan is working effectively.
“We are committed to continually monitoring and responding to the long-term concerns surrounding the closure of our school districts," he said.
He noted some districts were able to complete their preparedness plans more quickly than others.
“People wanted make sure that their students would have food security and make sure they do it right, not from the top down, but more-so from the bottom up as far as collaboration with their NJEA partners," Repollet said.
When Gov. Phil Murphy asked during Monday's press conference whether there was a single site where parents could go for information on getting their children access to food, Repollet mentioned the Department of Education's website. However, as of Monday night it didn't have information on specific districts' plans.
He also said districts are also working with the New Jersey Department of Agriculture to get support for student nutrition funding from the federal government.
Repollet suggested parents with questions should visit the Department of Education website.
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com