NEW JERSEY — U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) Friday joined with local educators, school administrators, education advocates, and local leaders at Bogota High School to sound the alarm on the devastating impact a government shutdown will have on our kids in school and announce his Stop School Hunger Strategy.
If extremists in Congress shut the government down, it will cut investments for the federal school meals program that provides breakfast and lunch to millions of children who need them across the nation.
Gottheimer also announced that he helped the Bogota School District claw back from Washington nearly $150,000 dollars to improve the nutritional quality of their meals, modernize operations, and update and expand their kitchens.
In New Jersey, about 400,000 children receive free or reduced-price breakfast and lunch, and nationwide, nearly 30 million children participate in the National School Lunch Program — 10.1 million more children than before the pandemic.
Gottheimer’s Stop School Hunger Strategy:
- First, as Co-Chair of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, Gottheimer is working to stop the extremists who want to shut the government down. Extremists want to declare war on a woman’s right to choose and risk feeding our children, our national security, and support for our veterans.
- Second, Gottheimer is fighting to pass the Universal School Meals Program Act — to provide breakfast and lunch to millions of children. It reduces the paperwork, cost, and bureaucracy of operating the free school lunch program, fights back against schools who, because of the fear of how it might look, don’t actually provide meals to kids who need it, and will ensure more hungry kids get fed.
- Third, Gottheimer is helping lead the Expanding Access to School Meals Act to allow any child who qualifies for reduced meals to receive them at no cost. It also expands the poverty threshold for free school lunch from 130 percent to 200 percent of the federal poverty level. New Jersey has already taken these steps.
- Lastly, Gottheimer is working to cut the red tape and streamline the process for parents trying to enroll their kids in school meals programs. He is helping lead the No Hungry Kids in Schools Act to have the State centralize and streamline the school meal program with less paperwork — and without collecting bureaucratic, hard to manage applications from individual households. Schools would automatically qualify based on the need determined by the State. Nationwide, the administrative costs of analyzing these tedious calculations and processing can cost school districts up to $100,000 a year.
Importance of school meals:
- Three out of five public school teachers say that students regularly come to school hungry.
- Hunger in the classroom decreases a student’s ability to focus and their physical activity, and causes stomach aches, headaches, depression, and anxiety.
- Students who skip breakfast generally make more errors, have slower memory recall, and are more likely to be absent, tardy, and to repeat a grade.
- Students who eat breakfast and lunch have better vitamin and nutrient intake, healthier overall diets, less susceptibility to obesity.
A government shutdown will:
- Freeze new investments for the federal school meals program, meals on wheels for seniors, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) for lower-income pregnant and nursing women, babies, and young children, and for SNAP to help lower-income families with their groceries.
- Put at risk military pay, defense projects, support for veterans, seniors, and childcare.
- Impact the economy, infrastructure projects, federal food inspections, the safety of our nation’s transportation, and will cost jobs, profits, and economic growth.
“Now, as you start your school year, I’m headed back to Washington in just a few days. My first homework assignment will be to help stop the extremists in Congress from shutting the government down. Not only would the government shutdown freeze new investments for things like infrastructure spending and meals on wheels for seniors, but it would also cut the dollars for the federal school meals program that provides breakfast and lunch to millions of children who would otherwise go hungry,” Gottheimer said. “You can’t propel a rocket without fuel – the same goes for a growing student. They are rockets ready to take off to a successful life and career. We’re wasting time and money trying to figure out which school district qualifies, and which students are eligible. I don’t care if it’s one or 100 kids in a school who are eligible for free school lunches — the school should provide them.”
“Thank you, Congressman, for being such a leader on these issues. We know that these educators are doing an amazing job educating children, but they’ll be the first to tell you if children are not well nourished, they cannot learn. To be schooled, you must be fueled. To be well-red, you must be well-fed. That’s why the Congressman’s push to have more access to school meals with less paperwork, less burden for the school district, and more nutrition for the kids is absolutely vital,” said Hunger Free America CEO Joel Berg.
Gottheimer was joined by Bergen County Education Association President Sue McBride, Uniserv Field Representative for Region 23 and 25 Carol Feinstein, Bogota Superintendent Damian Kennedy, Bogota High School Principal Dr. Jeannie Paz, Boys & Girls Clubs of Lower Bergen County Chief Executive Officer Joseph J. Licata, New Jersey School Boards Association’s immediate past President Irene LeFebvre, Hunger Free America CEO Joel Berg, Bogota School Board President Frank Miranda, and Bogota School Board Treasurer Jose Chavez.