One woman’s testimony on why school lunches can’t be cut

Following is an excerpt from the testimony given by Rosa Ramirez of St. Joseph Pro-Cathedral at the N.J. State Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee Public hearing, held March 25 at Rutgers-Camden School of Law.

My name is Rosa Ramirez, I am a Camden resident, I’m the breakfast and lunch director at St. Joseph’s Pro-Cathedral School in East Camden, and I’m an active leader in Camden Churches Organized for People. I would like to take my five minutes today to speak with you about an extremely important issue, the proposed decrease and cuts to the School Breakfast and School Lunch Program found on page 98 of Gov. Christie’s Fiscal 2011 Budget in Brief.

As the director of the breakfast and lunch program at St. Joseph’s Pro-Cathedral, it is my job to ensure that every meal is eaten, every dollar is accounted for, and every child in my school starts the school day having had breakfast.

At my school there are 266 children enrolled. Two-hundred-and-fifty-three of these enrolled students qualify for either free or reduced food programs. Of these 253, only 38 are on welfare, which means about 200 children are coming from families who are the working poor. Their parents have jobs and make too much to receive welfare but do not make enough to make ends meet. This is 75 percent of our student population.

Camden, along with all other urban New Jersey Schools both public and private, will brutally be affected by such proposed cuts. The children who receive these meals are the most vulnerable in our community. I’ve lived in Camden my whole life; I’ve worked here, worshiped here, and raised my family here. Economic troubles are not new to me and I will be the first to say we all need to tighten our belts when things get tough; but this is not the belt to be tightening. These children do not have any more holes in their belts.

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