TRENTON, NJ – Governor Phil Murphy today applauded his Democrat colleagues in Trenton and handed out pats on the back for tackling the very serious and fast growing problem of hunger in the Garden State. “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,” Murphy’s administration said in a press release today.
What does the “Anti-Hunger Bill Package” do to actually help hungry New Jersey residents today?
The answer is essentially nothing. Let’s pick through the bills and examine what each one does.
AJR-172 (Downey/Johnson/Holley) Designates Thursday of the third week of September of each year as “Food Waste Prevention Day” in New Jersey. This one essentially just puts another date on the calendar to announce at a future legislation or senate hearing. “Food Waste Prevention Day” should have been called “Hunger Prevention Month” and it should have started now…today…when hundreds of thousands of New Jersey residents can’t afford to put food on the table for their family.
AJR-174 (Mejia/Benson) Urges large food retailers in State to reduce food waste. Another empty bill that accomplishes absolutely nothing. Do they really think these retailers are in the business of throwing away food? In local communities many are already donated their excess usable food to the local food pantries.
A-4707 (Tucker/Downey/Calabrese) Directs Dept. of Agriculture to establish public awareness campaign for food waste. The translation here is, Trenton is going to set aside a chunk of money to pass through one of their friends or family members marketing agency to begin a campaign to raise awareness, but we’re all aware already, especially those who actually need the food and wait on long lines every weekend at the local food pantry.
A-4708 (Houghtaling/Land) Establishes Farm Liaison in Department of Agriculture. No words.
A-4704 (Taliaferro/Murphy/Verrelli) Directs Department of Agriculture to establish food desert produce pilot program. We all know everything in Trenton takes years to come to light, if ever. Another pork barrel bill that will accomplish nothing more than the state’s past “food desert” programs, like the one passed in 2017 that still hasn’t helped anyone.
A-4701 (Spearman/Chiaravalloti/Mukherji) Requires DHS to establish electronic portal to promote surplus food donation collaboration among nonprofit organizations, gleaners, and food retailers. There is already a line of communication between food banks and farmers in the state and wholesalers. They don’t need DHS to create anything because nobody uses the archaic websites created by the state that probably won’t even launch for another 2-3 years. The people are hungry TODAY.
A-4706 (Lampitt/Pintor Marin) Transfers authority over special nutrition programs from DOH to DHS. This sounds like a bureaucratic lateral pass at their own 20 yard line.
4703 (Lopez/Holley/Kennedy) Requires Chief Technology Officer to establish “Anti-Hunger Link” for all State websites, providing information on emergency food services. Click here if you’re hungry!
AJR-175 (Chiaravalloti/Spearman/Mosquera) Urges Chief Innovation Officer to prioritize enhancement of NJOneApp to include all State anti-hunger programs. What is a Chief Innovation Officer and does anyone actually use the NJOneApp?
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. Great, but nobody is school right now and these kids are hungry today.
A-4700 (Coughlin/Egan Jones/Mukherji) “Food Desert Elimination Act”; provides incentives to supermarkets and grocery stores that locate in “food deserts.” This bill is a dinosaur. It’s been back and forth in the legislature for some 3 to 4 years now. It’s basically a bunch of feel good nothingness, which is why it never saw the light of day until now.
AJR-60 (DeAngelo) Designates November of each year as “Food Pantry Donation Month” in New Jersey. Huzzah!
This “Anti Hunger Bill Package” is about as empty as the toilet paper aisle at Shop-Rite on any given Sunday.