TRENTON, N.J. — National School Lunch Week is this week, Oct. 11-15, and New Jersey has more than 800 schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program. Three school districts that are exemplary in implementing their feeding program are Newark, Jackson and Bridgeton.
“These school districts along with so many others have maintained a high standard of excellence,” NJDA Secretary Douglas Fisher said. “School meals provide much needed nutrition for students that helps them perform at their highest levels both in the classroom and in extra-curricular activities while forming healthy eating habits for life.”
The Newark School Board of Education in Essex County has 68 schools and has participated in the National School Lunch Program for more than 40 years. The district also takes part in the School Breakfast Program along with the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program and the Department of Defense Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program.
“The National School Lunch Program has played a key role in allowing us to meet an essential need for so many in our district,” said Dr. Tonya McGill, the Newark Board of Education Executive Director of the Office of Food and Nutrition. “We take pride in ensuring that our students have quality and healthy options available to them each day of the week.”
The Jackson School District in Ocean County works to present a diversity of offerings in an appealing way.
“We want them to walk into our cafeterias and see food that looks good and tastes good, because presentation matters,’’ said Jackson Food Service Director Joe Immordino. “We try very hard to offer multiple options so that everyone can find something they like.’’
Immordino said the district seeks and listens to feedback from students to keep up with trends and desires. The result has been the addition of made-to-order salad bars and pasta stations, as well as working ethnically diverse meals into the rotation.
Some of the offerings have needed to be suspended during COVID protocols, but will return as soon as possible, Immordino said. At this time, the district provides pre-packaged meals in individual boxes during the school day. At times last year, when schools were on full remote status, the district coordinated with the transportation department to deliver meals to any child who needed them at home.
“We’ve had to pivot and adapt a few times now, and we will continue to do that as long as necessary,’’ Immordino said. “As things change, we need to change with them – but what will never change is our commitment to providing quality, healthy meals to every child who wants one.’’
The Bridgeton School District in Cumberland County has 10 schools with two preschools, and serves Early College High School on the campus of Rowan College of South Jersey. Bridgeton is considered a 5-star Nutrition Hub by the NJDA and along with the National School Lunch Program, participates in the New Jersey Farm to School Program, the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, the Child and Adult Care Food Program and the Summer Food Service Program.
“We want to serve the finest meals available to everyone in our schools,” said Warren DeShields, the Director of Food Services for Bridgeton Public Schools. “Our students deserve the best and we believe that feeding education is always on the menu.”
New Jersey schools follow the nutrition standards set forth by the USDA, which incorporates a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat and fat-free milk options, with limitations on saturated fats, trans-fats, sodium, and calories.
National School Lunch Week was created by the School Nutrition Association to encourage participation in the National School Lunch Program and recognize the school districts providing healthy meals every day. The New Jersey Department of Agriculture administers the program in the Garden State.
To learn more about the state’s school lunch program go to https://bit.ly/3mOp9hy.
–Jeff Wolfe, NJDA