Murphy signs bills to reduce N.J. students’ food insecurities

Gov. Phil Murphy on Sept. 9 signed two bills that address food-insecurity issues for New Jersey students.

A2368 requires schools to provide free breakfasts and lunches to students from working-class, middle-income families, while A2365 requires the development of promotional materials for educating parents and guardians about existing and expanding school meal program options. Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin and Senate Majority Leader M. Teresa Ruiz were among the primary sponsors of A2368; Ruiz and Senate Education Chair Vin Gopal were two of the five primary sponsors of A2365.

“Expanding the right to a free school lunch isn’t just the right thing to do educationally, it is the right thing morally,” Murphy said from the playground at South Amboy Elementary School. “Of the many lessons we have learned over the course of the COVID pandemic, it is that access to healthy meals can become a fragile thing … overnight.”

“Ending food insecurity has always been a driving passion for Assembly Speaker Coughlin,” said AFTNJ President Donna M. Chiera after attending the event. “Today with Gov. Murphy and Senate Majority Leader Ruiz, that passion was signed into law.”

Students in classrooms across New Jersey “will know they have access to a well-balanced breakfast and lunch without the stigma of the past,” added Chiera. “But as we celebrate this victory, we cannot forget that many of our college and university students have the same food insecurities. AFTNJ believes that food security is a right for all New Jersey students: PreK to 12, as well as higher education — and not just athletes. We’re committed to work with Gov. Murphy, legislators and college/university administrations to find solutions.”