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 will promote awareness of food waste and hunger, was signed into law 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 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.”
“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). “This legislation 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.”
“Every day, people in New Jersey go hungry while, at the same time, perfectly adequate food gets thrown in the trash,” said Senator Gopal (D-Monmouth). “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.”
“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 Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “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.”
“Many college kids around the state do not know where their next meal is coming from,” said Senator Cunningham (D-Hudson). “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.”
“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 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.”
“Urging retailers to change their ways and to be mindful of food waste during their everyday operations is the fundamental aspect in the effort to combat food waste here in New Jersey,” said 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 law, sponsored by Senator Smith and Senator Singleton, will direct the Department of Agriculture to establish a public awareness campaign for food waste. The department will be required to encourage the reduction of food waste through donating or composting leftover food. They will 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 second law, sponsored by Senator Smith and Senator Codey, will establish the New Jersey Food Waste Task Force in the Department of Human Services. The task force will be responsible for examining and making recommendations for legislative or executive action with regard to reducing food waste in the state.
The third law, sponsored by Senator Beach and Senator Cruz-Perez, will 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 will 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 fourth law, sponsored by Senator Gopal, will require the Secretary of Agriculture to designate a current employee of the department as “Farm Liaison.” The liaison will encourage farmer participation in State agriculture programs, including food donations, and anti-hunger initiatives.
The fifth law, sponsored by Senator Ruiz and Senator Cunningham, will 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 will select one or more partnering providers to establish weekly markets that may be operated in partnership with local public schools or community organizations.
The sixth law, sponsored by Senator Cunningham and Senator Ruiz, will 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 law, grants will be provided to institutions that have one or more campuses that are designated by the secretary as hunger-free campuses.
A joint resolution, sponsored by Senator Cryan and Senator Greenstein, urges large food retailers and consumers in New Jersey to take certain steps to reduce their own food waste. Specifically, large food retailers are 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.
Another joint resolution, sponsored by Senator Gopal, designates the Thursday of the third week of September of each year as “Food Waste Prevention Day,” in New Jersey.
A third joint resolution, sponsored by Senator Ruiz and Senator Cunningham, designates November of each year as “Food Pantry Donation Month,” in New Jersey.
A fourth joint resolution, sponsored by Senator Diegnan and Senator Singleton, urges 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.