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New Jersey Senate to consider bill to make school menus more culturally diverse

TRENTON, N.J. — Legislation Assembly Democrats Pamela Lampitt, Carmelo G. Garcia, Raj Mukherji, Gabriela Mosquera, Joseph Lagana and Benjie Wimberly sponsored to require public school districts to consider making their breakfast and lunch menus more culturally sensitive was advanced by the Senate Education Committee on Thurs.

The bill (A-3360) would require superintendents in public school districts containing a middle or high school to establish a district-wide food services advisory committee to recommend breakfast and lunch menu options that reflect the student body’s cultural, traditional and overall dietary preferences if the student population suggests such a need exists.

“Consistency in teaching New Jersey’s children about embracing cultural diversity requires us to ensure that they know everyone is welcome in the classroom as well as in the cafeteria,” said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). “School menus that respect students’ dietary preferences will send a message of inclusion that is central to our state’s value system.”

“One of the greatest aspects of living in New Jersey is our multiculturalism,” said Garcia (D-Hudson). “Honoring that diversity involves making sure no student feels like his or her cultural background is a limiting or ostracizing factor in any regard, and lunchroom options are no exception.”

“This legislation initiates the process that many other states have completed in recognition of changing tastes and food preferences among today’s more informed and health-conscious students and families,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “This will ensure that New Jersey schools respect the preferences of multicultural, vegetarian and vegan students.”

“School breakfasts and lunches cannot provide the nourishment that New Jersey’s students need if they aren’t eaten,” said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester). “Making vegetarian, vegan, kosher, halal and other cultural dietary options available can increase the likelihood that students will eat the food on the menu and help ensure that New Jersey’s School Nutrition Programs reach their intended goal.”

“There’s no doubt that a healthy diet plays an integral role in a student’s ability to understand and retain information,” said Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic). “In addition to respecting the great diversity of New Jersey’s population, this legislation is about providing students with meals that take both their wellness and their personal preferences into account.”

“On its face, this legislation is about making sure that all students receive the nutrition they need, but the larger notion is that this is a state where we welcome people of all backgrounds,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Just as we strive to ensure that our children succeed academically, this bill fosters the kind of cultural awareness and acceptance that will be a foundation for unity in our state for generations to come.”

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