TRENTON – Alongside Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, bill sponsors and advocates, Governor Phil Murphy today signed a legislative package into law to fight hunger in New Jersey.
“In the richest nation in the world, it is a moral failure that so many of our fellow New Jerseyans don’t have enough food to eat,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “This comprehensive approach will allow us to leverage New Jersey’s strengths to better provide for our residents, so families can provide for themselves and their children. I applaud Speaker Coughlin for his leadership in this effort, as well as Senate President Sweeney and all of the sponsors for their hard work and commitment to eliminating food insecurity in New Jersey.”
The legislation signed today addresses New Jersey’s hunger crisis by coordinating efforts between government agencies, including the Department of Agriculture, the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education, and the Office of the Chief Innovation Officer. The legislation confronts food deserts in New Jersey communities and hunger among students at the state’s colleges and universities, spreads information about resources through state websites, and discourages food waste, among other efforts.
Assembly Speaker Coughlin and the bills’ sponsors also spoke in support of this legislation:
“When I became Speaker, I vowed to make fighting hunger and promoting healthy eating in New Jersey a priority,” said Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin. “Today, we take an important step forward to address the reduction of food waste, food deserts, and food insecurity. By making these bills law, we will help farmers and help students enrolled in public institutions obtain an education without going hungry. No family should have to choose between paying their bills and eating a nutritious meal. With these new laws in place, it is my hope that those same families will no longer have to decide between those options.”
“People living in urban areas around the state often do not have access to affordable fresh produce, making it harder for them to make healthy choices. This not only impacts the food on their table each night but also the long term health of our most vulnerable communities,” said Senate President Pro Tempore M. Teresa Ruiz. “Piloting a program with schools or organizations to have weekly farmers markets will allow us to determine a viable long-term solution for food deserts.”
“People need to be made aware of just how much food we waste every single year,” said Senator Bob Smith. “The United States throws away about 30-40 percent of all food, which then ends up accounting for over 20 percent of all waste in our landfills. This is just absolutely unacceptable. There are much better alternatives for the extra food. We could donate extra food to food pantries or homeless shelters and compost the food which expires. There is no conceivable reason we should ever be wasting food.”
“Many college kids around the state do not know where their next meal is coming from,” said Senator Sandra Cunningham. “Students cannot get the most out of their classes if they are going hungry. By addressing food insecurity at state universities we will help our best and brightest to reach their full potential.”
“New Jersey has countless resources for individuals and families who are struggling with food insecurity, but it can be challenging to find the right program in your area,” said Senator James Beach. “This legislation will allow more people to take advantage of the services available and get the help they need.”
“The use and enhancement of technology will help us to improve the quality of service we provide to the hungry and the homeless in New Jersey,” said Senator Patrick J. Diegnan, Jr. “Enhancing the NJOneApp will put those services right at the fingertips of those in need.”
“This is part of a larger effort to put an end to hunger and to alleviate food insecurity – with approximately 10 percent of New Jersey’s residents don’t know where their next meal is coming from,” said Senator Joe Cryan. “This is a hidden crisis experienced by families, senior citizens, students, the working poor and others who struggle to put food on the table. While they go hungry, an estimated 40 percent of the food produced in America goes uneaten or tossed away. Large food retailers can play a significant role in waste reduction so that we can feed the hungry.”
“Every day, people in New Jersey go hungry while, at the same time, perfectly adequate food gets thrown in the trash,” said Senator Vin Gopal. “This should be unacceptable by any standard and I hope that today is at least a small step in closing the gap between the abundance of food we have and the people who need it most.”
“1 million New Jersey residents go to bed hungry,” said Assemblywoman Yvonne Lopez. “Many of whom do not have the means or are simply unaware of the various programs, food providers and anti-hunger initiatives our state has to offer. By adding an ‘Anti-Hunger Link’ to multiple state websites, we hope to raise awareness and reach those in need of food assistance in an effort to create a completely hunger-free state.”
“Hunger does not discriminate,” said Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly. “It affects all types of people – from those living in small communities to those living on college campuses. College meal plans can be costly for many families and students, and this grant money will significantly help our hard-working students who are in need of food assistance while they are getting an education.”
“These statistics are alarming and quite frankly, sad. To know that so many adults and children throughout New Jersey are hungry each day is heartbreaking,” said Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo. “These statistics, however, are not just about numbers. They are about people who don’t have enough food. Through this law, we’ll be taking action by donating to our community’s food banks and pantries that are the safety nets for those who face food insecurity.”
“The responsibilities of farmers are so vast that they often lack the time or resources to learn about every program offered by the Department of Agriculture, which include taxation programs, food donations, anti-hunger initiatives, as well as other programs,” said Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling. “By creating a Farm Liaison who can assist and encourage farmers to enroll in these programs, we will expand access to food for hungry people across New Jersey, as well as ease some of the financial and physical burdens for our state’s farmers.”
“For many New Jersey residents, consuming a healthy diet is a matter of access to healthy food and the means to purchase it,” said Assemblyman Adam Taliaferro. “While families may want to eat well-balanced meals, finances are often an issue. In many instances, nutritious food can be costly.”
"Forty percent of the food produced in the United States ends up uneaten and tossed into the garbage each year,” said Assemblywoman Linda Carter. “As one in ten residents in New Jersey face food insecurity, more than 400 pounds of food per person is loss or wasted. It’s a shame, and we must figure out actionable steps to prevent and reduce food waste going forward.”
“We need answers,” said Assemblyman Pedro Mejia. “How do we reduce food waste effectively and dramatically in this state? A task force with the sole focus of finding ways to prevent food loss will help us meet our goals and become more responsible with food donations.”
Assemblymembers Chiaravalloti, Spearman, and Mosquera released the following joint statement:
“There are many resources available to New Jersey residents who are food insecure and suffering from severe hunger, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance to Need Families (TANF) and General Assistance through Work First New Jersey; but it remains a challenge to connect people to those vital services. That’s why improving the NJOneApp, which already offers a simple, convenient way for residents to see if they qualify for food assistance programs, is a crucial step towards ending hunger in New Jersey.
“Under this new law, the NJOneApp will be redesigned to include all state anti-hunger programs. Users will be able to easily browse all the resources available to them and choose which will work best for their family. No longer will residents be unsure of where to turn, who to ask, or what help exists in New Jersey; the answers would be found at the touch of a button on their cell phone.
“We are pleased the Governor and our colleagues in the Legislature have joined the fight against hunger by supporting this measure and we thank Speaker Coughlin for including it in his sweeping anti-hunger bill package. We look forward to taking the next step in helping families in need.”
The following bills were signed into law: