By The New Jersey Department of Agriculture
New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher and Patricia Dombroski, regional administrator, U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service, this week celebrated National Nutrition Month with 85 eighth grade students as they ate lunch in their temporary home at Keyport High School in Keyport. The students have been displaced from Union Beach Memorial School since Super Storm Sandy flooded the school.
Union Beach’s 205 middle school students have attended Keyport High School and Central School since November 19 while repairs are being made to their home school. The elementary school students are currently housed separately at a closed parochial school in Hazlet.
“Being provided with lunch by the district helps students whose families are struggling with the aftermath of Super Storm Sandy, which severely impacted the town and closed the school,” said Secretary Fisher. “During Nutrition Month, we applaud the efforts of both the Union Beach and Keyport school districts for ensuring these students get a nutritious meal every day.”
The Union Beach district is providing all its displaced students with a free lunch through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) until they return to Memorial School. Meals offered through the NSLP must meet strict federal nutrition guidelines, which include more fruits and vegetables and whole grains, fat-free or low-fat milk and fat-free flavored milk.
“The generosity of the Keyport School District is a beautiful expression of National Nutrition Month – making healthy nutritious food available to children at one of the most crucial times in their lives, while they heal and while they begin putting their lives back together,” said Dombroski.
Keyport Schools Superintendent Lisa Savoia went to Union Beach two days after the storm and discussed possible solutions for Memorial School’s students with Union Beach School Superintendent Joseph Annibale.
“Keyport was more than happy to open our doors to Union Beach with the support of the Board of Education,” said Savoia. “The students and staff of both districts should be commended. They are sharing resources, classrooms, etc. The children are so resilient. I am so proud of them.”
Savoia said they worked collaboratively with Maschio’s, the district food service management company, to coordinate for the increase of students.
In addition, Keyport agreed to accept payment from Union Beach in the amount equal to the federal and state reimbursements for the meals.
Annibale said following Super Storm Sandy, they first had to locate their students and families, many of whom lost their homes and were immediately homeless. At the same time, they had to identify a location for students to attend classes as the result of the devastation of Memorial School.
“With no possible way of determining which students were free, reduced or full and also no immediate means of collecting money, the decision was simple – serve a small breakfast snack and lunch without charge,” said Annibale, who literally drove around looking for suitable sites to hold classes for his students following the hurricane. “Once our school reopens, we will have our Pay for It software program online and ready to begin collecting money for lunches. At that point, we will have given most of our families the breathing room they so desperately needed to get back on their feet.”
National Nutrition Month is a nutrition education and information campaign held each March, created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to focus attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.
To learn more about the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, visit Facebook atwww.facebook.com/NJDeptofAgriculture
or Twitter @NJDA1.