Bill Package Promoting Awareness of Food Waste and Hunger Clears Committee

Trenton – A bill package sponsored by Senator Bob Smith, Senator Troy Singleton, Senator Richard Codey, Senator James Beach, Senator Nilsa Cruz-Perez, Senator Vin Gopal, Senator M. Teresa Ruiz, Senator Sandra B. Cunningham, Senator Joseph Cryan, and Senator Linda Greenstein, which would promote awareness of food waste and hunger, cleared the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee today.

“People need to be made aware of just how much food we waste every single year,” said Senator Smith (D-Middlesex/Somerset). “The United States throws away about 30-40 percent of all food, which ends up accounting for over 20 percent of all waste in our landfills. 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.”

“A little over 10 percent of New Jerseyans, or roughly 900,000, are food insecure. Sadly, nearly one-third are children,” said Senator Singleton (D-Burlington). “They go to sleep feeling hungry only to wake-up wondering when they will eat their next meal. Yet, in homes across our state, people don’t think twice about tossing uneaten foods into the trash, filling the landfill instead of stomachs. It is high time to change our ways and create better awareness to reduce, and hopefully, eliminate food waste.”

“Hunger is an unfortunate reality experienced by many in our state,” said Senator Codey (D-Essex/Morris). “A concerted effort is needed to appropriately address food waste and increase food donations. We must do better and this task force will detail how we can do better for those who are hungry in New Jersey.”

“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 Beach (D-Burlington/Camden). “Having a full list of all programs available will allow more people to take advantage of the services available and get the help they need.”

“Providing oversight to ensure a routinely updated catalogue of emergency food service areas is available online is an incredibly valuable asset in the fight against hunger for New Jersey,” said Senator Cruz-Perez (D-Camden/Gloucester). “This will increase awareness of the services available so those suffering from food insecurities do not have to go without.”

“Throwing food away while people go hungry should be an unacceptable action and yet we do it every day. Hopefully, with this package of bills, we can help reduce the gap between excess food in our communities and the people who need it,” said Senator Gopal (D-Monmouth).

“People living in urban spaces around the state often do not have access to affordable fresh produce, making it harder for them to make healthy choices,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “Piloting a program with schools or organizations to have weekly produce markets will allow us to determine a viable long-term solution for food deserts.”

“Many college students around the state struggle to find where their next meal is coming from,” said Senator Cunningham (D-Hudson). “Students cannot get the most out of their education if they are going hungry. Addressing food insecurity at state universities will help to ensure the best possible outcomes for our students.”

“The food thrown away by retailers in the United States is such an unnecessary waste of resources. So many other countries have already taken action to make sure food isn’t wasted. Even though we cannot do anything to change what goes on in New York, Pennsylvania, or Delaware, we can at least start to take action against food waste here in New Jersey,” said Senator Cryan (D-Union).

“We need to take the steps necessary to combat food waste here in New Jersey, and to do that, we must urge food retailers to change their ways,” Senator Greenstein (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “To produce real change, we need to promote changing the habit of mindless food waste and why it is important in the effort to fight hunger.”

The first bill, S-3231 sponsored by Senator Smith and Senator Singleton, would direct the Department of Agriculture to establish a public awareness campaign for food waste. The department would be required to encourage the reduction of food waste through donating or composting leftover food. They would also encourage the development and distribution of appropriate informational materials regarding food waste, through media outlets such as social media, television, radio, or print media. The bill was released from committee by a vote of 9-0.

The second bill, S-3232 sponsored by Senator Smith and Senator Codey, would establish the New Jersey Food Waste Task Force in the Department of Human Services. The task force would be responsible for examining and making recommendations for legislative or executive action with regard to reducing food waste in the state. The bill was released from committee by a vote of 9-0.

The third bill, S-3234 sponsored by Senator Beach and Senator Cruz-Perez, would require the Chief Technology Officer of the Office of Information Technology, in consultation with the Commissioner of Human Services and the Commissioner of Agriculture, to establish an “Anti-Hunger Link” on the official website of every State executive department. The link would direct the user to a dedicated page listing all of the emergency food programs in New Jersey. These include food pantries, soup kitchens, and child and senior feeding programs. The bill was released from committee by a vote of 9-0.

The fourth bill, S-3235 sponsored by Senator Gopal, would require the Secretary of Agriculture to designate a current employee of the department as “Farm Liaison.” The liaison would encourage farmer participation in State agriculture programs, including food donations, and anti-hunger initiatives. The bill was released from committee by a vote of 9-0.

The fifth bill, S-3237 sponsored by Senator Ruiz and Senator Cunningham, would require the Department of Agriculture to establish a two-year food desert produce pilot program to provide food desert communities with access to fresh and affordable produce. In establishing the program, the department would select one or more partnering providers to establish weekly markets that may be operated in partnership with local public schools or community organizations. The bill was released from committee by a vote of 9-0.

The sixth bill, S-3239 sponsored by Senator Cunningham and Senator Ruiz, would require the Secretary of Higher Education to establish a Hunger-Free Campus Grant Program to address the issue of food insecurity among students enrolled in public institutions of higher education. Under the bill, grants would be provided to institutions that have one or more campuses that are designated by the secretary as hunger-free campuses. The bill was released from committee by a vote of 9-0.

The seventh bill, SCR-151 sponsored by Senator Cunningham and Senator Ruiz, would urge the New Jersey Supreme Court to consider promoting a public awareness campaign to notify the public, farmers, crop producers, and agricultural organizations of the sheriff labor assistance programs and enforced community service programs. The bill was released from committee by a vote of 9-0.

The eighth bill, SJR-107 sponsored by Senator Cryan and Senator Greenstein, would urge large food retailers and consumers in New Jersey to take certain steps to reduce their own food waste. Specifically, large food retailers would be urged to upgrade inventory systems with the latest technology, reduce excess inventory and handling, and reduce the amount of perishables that ultimately go to waste. The bill was released from committee by a vote of 9-0.

The ninth bill, SJR-108 sponsored by Senator Gopal, would designate the Thursday of the third week of September of each year as “Food Waste Prevention Day,” in New Jersey. The bill was released from committee by a vote of 9-0.

The tenth bill, SJR-109 sponsored by Senator Ruiz and Senator Cunningham, would designate November of each year as “Food Pantry Donation Month,” in New Jersey. The bill was released from committee by a vote of 9-0.

The last bill, SJR-110 sponsored by Senator Singleton, would urge the Chief Innovation Officer of New Jersey to prioritize the enhancement of the NJOneApp to include all State anti-hunger programs so residents can be more effectively screened and can apply for these anti-hunger programs. The bill was released from committee by a vote of 9-0.