On January 23, during a visit to the Dudley Family School in Camden — a poverty-stricken city with a high school dropout rate — New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (shown in photo) proposed several new school programs for his state’s schools. Among his proposals for six of Camden’s schools was an after-school dinner program, in which 75-125 students are already enrolled.
Christie made the announcement accompanied by Camden Mayor Dana Redd and Superintendent of Schools Paymon Rouhanifard.
“In Camden, we are beginning to see real progress on education issues from creating safety corridors to tackling the problem of high-school drop-outs. This new After School Dinner Pilot Program is another innovative way to ensure children have an opportunity for a nourishing meal, which is a critical element to improving student performance and achievement,” Christie was quoted by CBS News in Philadelphia.
The After School Dinner Pilot Program, run in partnership with food-service giant, Aramark, begins at 3:30 p.m. and ends by 4:00 p.m.
Mayor Redd said during the press conference, “The After School Dinner Pilot Program is a great initiative that will truly help many of our Camden families who are working hard to provide basic necessities for their children. I am confident that the success of the pilot program will eventually allow us to extend it citywide. I thank the Governor and Superintendent for their continued commitment and support to our Camden children and families.”
According to the 2007 publication Poverty in the City of Camden by the Poverty Benchmarks Project of Legal Services of New Jersey, “Nearly two out of every five adults between 18 and 64 years old [and 57 percent of the city’s children] lived below the federal poverty line in Camden ... in 2005.”
The report showed that in 2005, 57.2 percent of children in Camden were receiving welfare benefits, and more than 25 percent of all households in the city received food stamps.
With such benefits being widely distributed to help impoverished families feed their children at home, neither Christie nor Redd nor Rouhanifard explained why an after-school dinner program is necessary, unless the mothers of impoverished children are deemed incapable of using the proceeds of these programs to buy food and cook meals.
In his State of the State address on January 14, Christie offered his plan to improve the education of his state’s students: “And one key step is to lengthen the school day and the school year.”
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Photo of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie speaking on education in Camden, N.J.: AP Images