Newark students can benefit from free meal programs, summer activities

Newark school and city leaders are offering programs and meal distribution events to keep students engaged and fed this summer. (Erica Lee for Chalkbeat)

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Free city and school programs are available to Newark families this summer to keep students academically engaged and reduce hunger, which is more pronounced when kids are out of school.

Studies show summer learning programs can prepare students for the upcoming school year. In Newark, more than 6,000 public school students are attending summer programs, a combination of mandatory academic programs and specialized and recreational programs.

Newark Public Schools Superintendent Roger León said summer school is about “moving kids forward” by helping students refine basic skills in math and reading and offering accelerated courses and internship programs.

Families can also get extra food assistance from citywide meal distributions and federal aid programs. In New Jersey, more than 550,000 children are receiving state food benefits under the Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer, a new federal program to help low-income families purchase food for their school-aged children during the summer months, according to a state department of agriculture press release.

“New Jersey students rely on school breakfasts and lunches to get the nutrition they need to learn, grow, and thrive,” said Gov. Phil Murphy in the department’s release.” With the new Summer EBT program, we are bridging the gap to ensure that our students have access to nutritious foods, even when school is not in session.

Here’s a list of summer meal giveaways and programs for families to access:

Newark Public Schools summer program

This year, the district began its summer programs on June 27 at 16 elementary schools, up from 14 last summer, and across 10 high schools. It also extended hours for enrichment programs – which are provided by teachers and community-based organizations – to 6 p.m. this year.

The summer school day begins at 8:30 a.m. with breakfast and offers enrichment programs, which are provided by teachers and community-based organizations. Students who are not attending summer school can pick up breakfast or lunch at a summer school site until Aug. 2, when summer school ends, district officials said.

The district is also installing air conditioners across all schools, and has installed them in instructional spaces at summer school sites, according to June board committee reports. Additionally, the district says 124 out of 838 contactless water fountains remain to be installed districtwide, a $5 million project that began in 2022.

Summer school registration is closed but you can learn more about the district’s summer programs on its website.

Newark ‘Summer Fun’ activities

For a tenth year in a row, the city is hosting “Summer Fun in Newark,” which includes a list of activities and programs for families. Residents can look forward to pop-up play streets, movie nights, summer camps, and other activities for students and their families.

You can find a list of activities and recreational programs on the city’s website.

Summer federal meal programs

The state is also providing families with a one-time $120 per eligible child for the summer to buy food for their children at grocery stores, farmers markets, and other retailers – similar to how SNAP benefits are used.

Newark families can also benefit from the Summer EBT program, which is expected to distribute more than $66 million in federal food security benefits in New Jersey. Students in low-income households who receive free and reduced-price meals, are enrolled in SNAP, TANF, or are in foster care are eligible for the Summer EBT program, regardless of where they attend school, according to the state.

Applications will be accepted throughout the summer and families should contact their local school district to apply.

For more information, visit

City and local meal distributions

Newark leaders are also hosting free meal giveaways across the city this summer. Through the SuNup or Summer Nutrition Program, the city works with local nonprofit organizations to provide breakfast and lunch for children 18 and under.

Through the program, the Newark Public Library is offering free lunch, Monday through Friday at its main library, between 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m., and Tuesday and Friday, at the branches, at the same time. The program runs from July 6 until Sept. 10 and no registration is required. Free lunches are available on a first-come first-served basis.

Visit the Newark Public Library’s website for more information.

The city is also hosting its weekly meal distribution event in partnership with Hello Fresh. The next food giveaway is scheduled for Wednesday, July 3 at 10 a.m. on Broadway and Grafton Avenue where 1,000 boxes of food will be given away. The city’s distribution is a year-round event hosted every Wednesday. Food boxes include fruits, vegetables, and chicken.

For more information on this week’s giveaway and others, visit the city’s website or Facebook page.

La Casa de Don Pedro in the city’s North Ward will host its first summer meals program starting on July 5 until Aug. 30. Children under the age of 18 can visit any of their giveaway locations for breakfast and lunch, Monday through Friday. Families must pre-register online to pick up their boxes at one of the following locations:

  • 221 Broad Street
  • 43 Broadway
  • 93 St. Francis Street
  • 23 Broadway
  • 317 Roseville Avenue
  • 282 First Avenue
  • 140 Mt. Prospect Avenue

Jessie Gómez is a reporter for Chalkbeat Newark, covering public education in the city. Contact Jessie at

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