skip to main content skip to main navigation
NJDA Secretary Fisher serving lunch to about 65 students participating in the NJDA Summer Food Service Program at Pennington Park in Paterson - Click to enlarge

Programs Underway Around NJ To Provide Free Summer Meals for Low Income Students


(PATERSON) – New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher and U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service representatives today helped serve lunch to about 65 students participating in the Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program at Pennington Park in Paterson. 

David Buchholtz introduces Secretary Fisher to a group of campers at Pennington Park in Paterson

Started in 1976 as an outgrowth of the National School Lunch Program, the Summer Food Service Program is designed to reach those who are age 18 or younger in low-income areas.  It also is open to people over 18 who are mentally or physically handicapped and who participate in public or nonprofit private programs established for the disabled.

“Students who receive free or reduced price lunch during the school year have many options for receiving healthy meals during the summer through the Summer Food Service Program,” said Secretary Fisher. “It is easy to find the nearest Summer Food Service Program by texting ‘Food’ to 877-877. Some programs provide both breakfast and lunch and ensure there is no gap in getting nutritious meals on summer break. We applaud Paterson’s commitment to providing access to this important program for its young residents.”

The federally-funded program reimburses participating organizations for meals served to children who live in areas in which at least 50 percent of the children qualify for free or reduced-price meals under the National School Lunch Program.  Statewide this year there are more than 1,250 sites serving more than 58,000 children daily. In the 2015-2016 school year, more than 428,909 New Jersey students received free or reduced price meals in their schools under the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). In 2015, only 19 percent participating in the NSLP had access to healthy meals in the summer.

David Buchholtz, Paterson Board of Education Summer Food Service Program Director, receives a Certificate of Appreciation from James Harmon, Director, Special Nutrition Programs, USDA.  From L to R: Stephanie Sutton-Page, NJ Department of Agriculture Coordinator Summer Food Service Program; James Harmon, David Buchholtz; NJ Secretary of Agriculture Doug Fisher; NJ Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Services Director Rose Tricario

Last year, the 108 sponsors served more than 3 million meals at 1,100 feeding sites. Most participating organizations may be reimbursed for up to two meals a day – lunch and either breakfast or a snack.

Paterson has participated in the Summer Food Service Program since 1994, growing from 20 feeding sites to 43 this year. The program is operated by the Paterson Board of Education, with 20 sites in conjunction with Paterson Recreation Department programs, like the one at Pennington Park. During today’s visit, the children were served turkey breast and cheese sandwiches and fresh fruit. Program director David Buchholtz accepted a USDA Certificate of Appreciation/Summer Champion Award on behalf of the Paterson BOE for excellence in the SFSP.

“We have developed a strong foundation with the community so that if any organization is in need of meals throughout the summer, all they have to do is call us,” said Buchholtz. “They can trust us to be there for them.” 

To learn more about the Summer Food Service Program or how to become a sponsor, visit To find a feeding site near you, call the National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-3-HUNGRY (1-866-348-6479) or text Food to 877-877.