NJ war on hunger: Lawmakers consider 14 new solutions
Most New Jersey residents don’t have to worry about getting enough to eat, but for some it’s an ongoing challenge.
Anti-hunger advocates estimate 1 out of every 8 Garden State residents is food insecure, meaning they don’t always know where their next meal is coming from and sometimes go to bed hungry.
Later this week lawmakers in the Assembly are scheduled to consider a multi-bill package that takes on the issue of hunger in the Garden State.
“It is a problem that we have to solve," said Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex, who is spearheading the legislative effort. "I firmly believe if we are going to call ourselves a great state — and we are — one of the things we have to do is make sure we feed the people of New Jersey."
The bills address the reduction of food waste, promoting supermarkets in urban and rural neighborhoods that are known as “food deserts,” helping farmers and low-income college students, and increasing public awareness about anti-hunger efforts.
“We’re going to try to bring awareness to food waste and we’re going to try to work with the business community, the restaurant industry," he said.
“The collective idea is to recognize that there is food that is available to people who need it, and we have the opportunity to try to break down some of the impediments that get in the way.”
He also says it's important that the available food be "fresh, nutritious" not just the "empty calories" of cheap fast-food menus.
“We have made a quantum leap in understanding the relationship between nutritious food and good health," he said. “One of the cornerstones of this package is to encourage people to build supermarkets in food deserts.”
Food deserts are areas without supermarkets, just bodegas and other small convenience stores that often don’t carry fresh fruits or vegetables and often charge more for goods than major supermarkets.
Anti-Hunger Bill Package to be considered on Thursday by the Assembly Human Services Committee:
— AJR-172 (Downey/Johnson/Holley) Designates Thursday of the third week of September of each year as “Food Waste Prevention Day” in New Jersey.
— AJR-174 (Mejia/Benson) Urges large food retailers in State to reduce food waste.
— A-4705 (Carter/Benson/Mejia) Establishes New Jersey Food Waste Task Force to make recommendations concerning food waste in New Jersey.
— A-4707 (Tucker/Downey/Calabrese) Directs Dept. of Agriculture to establish public awareness campaign for food waste.
— A-4708 (Houghtaling/Land) Establishes Farm Liaison in Department of Agriculture.
— A-4704 (Taliaferro/Murphy/Verrelli) Directs Department of Agriculture to establish food desert produce pilot program.
— ACR-204 (Reynolds-Jackson/DeAngelo) Urges New Jersey Judiciary to promote public awareness campaign for food growers to register as placement worksites for community service programs.
— A-4701 (Spearman/Chiaravalloti/Mukherji) Requires DHS to establish electronic portal to promote surplus food donation collaboration among nonprofit organizations, gleaners, and food retailers.
— A-4706 (Lampitt/Pintor Marin) Transfers authority over special nutrition programs from DOH to DHS.
— A-4703 (Lopez/Holley/Kennedy) Requires Chief Technology Officer to establish “Anti-Hunger Link” for all State websites, providing information on emergency food services.
— AJR-175 (Chiaravalloti/Spearman/Mosquera) Urges Chief Innovation Officer to prioritize enhancement of NJOneApp to include all State anti-hunger programs.
— A-4702 (Wimberly/Jasey/Mukherji) “Hunger-Free Campus Act”; requires Secretary of Higher Education to establish grant program to address food insecurity among students enrolled in public institutions of higher education; appropriates $1 million.
— A-4700 (Coughlin/Egan Jones/Mukherji) “Food Desert Elimination Act”; provides incentives to supermarkets and grocery stores that locate in “food deserts.”
— AJR-60 (DeAngelo) Designates November of each year as “Food Pantry Donation Month” in New Jersey.