Program aims to help more children access healthy, nutritious meals
Philadelphia, April 1, 2019—Reinvestment Fund is offering a new capital and planning resource that aims to increase access to healthy, nutritious meals for children from vulnerable populations. The New Jersey Child Nutrition Fund (NJCNF) offers capital and technical assistance to providers who participate or wish to participate in federal meal programs, Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) and the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). NJCNF is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Participation rates for both CACFP and SFSP are low across New Jersey. In 2016, of the children under age 12 and living below 185% of the poverty level, roughly 23% benefitted from meals supported by CACFP and only 15% benefitted from SFSP. Just a 2.25 percentage point increase in participation in each program would result in roughly 10,000 more children receiving regular meals through CACFP and SFSP.
“Too often, whether people get enough healthy food depends on where they live, and this program will help toward eliminating that disparity,” said Marco Navarro, Senior Program Officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “Providing nutritious meals to more children is an important building block to a healthier, more equitable state.”
SFSP provides free meals and snacks to help children and teens in low-income areas get the nutrition they need throughout the summer months when they are out of school and do not have access to school breakfast and lunch programs. CACFP provides reimbursement for meals and snacks for eligible children enrolled for care at participating childcare centers, childcare homes, or afterschool programs.
“We encourage childcare operators, sponsors of community-based meal programs and meal vendors to apply for these resources,” said Bevin Parker-Cerkez, Senior Director, Early Childhood Education at Reinvestment Fund and Program Manager for NJCNF. “Through NJCNF, they can access business planning services and funding to help grow their existing programs or even establish a new meal program.”
The program has a rolling application process and will offer awards ranging from $5,000 to $50,000 to fund planning activities. Additional grant and loan resources will be available to support the execution of capital projects and/or facility plans. Application information is available at https://www.reinvestment.com/childnutritionresourcecenter/.
As Reinvestment Fund leads the implementation of NJCNF, it is also partnering with Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ) and the New Jersey Food for Thought Campaign, led by Hunger Free New Jersey, to complement existing efforts and execute a comprehensive strategy to increase meal participation. The project partners bring together data, research, advocacy, capacity building and facility development to offer a multi-faceted support system to the operators in these sectors.
“In addition to providing nourishing food to young children, the CACFP is also an important financial resource for child care programs serving low-income families,” said Cecilia Zalkind, Executive Director, ACNJ. “ACNJ’s research on child care costs in NJ found that programs that participate in the CACFP are stronger financially and better able to meet program costs. However, administrative barriers often make it difficult for providers to participate. NJCNF can help providers with resources and technical assistance so they can access this important program.”
A 2017 study by ACNJ found that providers (both home and center-based) serving 100% low-income families and participating in CACFP are more fiscally sound. Following this study, Reinvestment Fund and ACNJ collaborated to understand how to expand CACFP utilization. The resulting Nourishing Our Youngest Children report offers several recommendations that NJCNP will advance.
“This new initiative promises to provide much-needed support to summer meals and afterschool sponsors and vendors across the state to jumpstart new programs and expand existing ones,’’ said Adele LaTourette, director, Hunger Free New Jersey. “We look forward to working with the Reinvestment Fund to build on the gains we’ve made in recent years toward expanding these important child nutrition programs so that all New Jersey children have healthy food to eat, every day.’’
In addition to increasing the number of low-income children receiving meals in childcare and community-based settings, NJCNF also aims to facilitate the use of fresh, local and ethnically appropriate food whenever possible and to improve the financial health of childcare operators, sponsors of community-based meal programs and the meal vendors that serve them.
About Reinvestment Fund
Reinvestment Fund is a catalyst for change in low-income communities. We integrate data, policy and strategic investments to improve the quality of life in low-income neighborhoods. Using analytical and financial tools, we bring high-quality grocery stores, affordable housing, schools and health centers to the communities that need better access—creating anchors that attract investment over the long term and help families lead healthier, more productive lives. Learn more at reinvestment.com.
About Hunger Free New Jersey
Hunger Free New Jersey works to change policy and practice to ensure all New Jersey residents have healthy food to eat, every single day.
About Advocates for Children of New Jersey
ACNJ is a statewide child advocacy organization dedicated to making sure that every child has the chance to grow up safe, healthy and educated.”