Is Also Sponsoring Legislation to Increase Public Awareness
(CAPE MAY) — Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Bob Andrzejczak visited a wholesale produce farm recently to get his hands dirty — literally — harvesting leftover and “ugly” tomatoes and eggplants in an effort to highlight gleaning in the Garden State.
Gleaning is the process of picking and collecting leftover produce that isn’t market ready, either because it isn’t ripe enough at harvest time or it has cosmetic flaws, and distributing it to individuals in need.
“Every day in New Jersey, more than one million people are considered food insecure — they don’t know where their next meal will be coming from,” said Andrzejczak (D-Atlantic/Cape May/Cumberland). “In the 21st Century, no one should be going hungry. So we’re out here gleaning to get these tomatoes and eggplants that otherwise would just rot on the vine into the bellies of folks who might otherwise not be able to get fresh produce.”
Nationally, approximately 40 percent of the food supply goes uneaten due to waste and losses at the farm, retail and consumer levels. In New Jersey, 1.15 million residents — including 375,000 children — suffer from food insecurity.
“Gleaning is great because it helps farmers, it helps food pantries and shelters and it helps residents,” said Andrzejczak. “And the best part is, gleaning is essentially free. Farmers donate their leftover crop; volunteers come out to glean the harvest and bring the produce to area food pantries, shelters and soup kitchens, free of charge; and the pantries and shelters hand out the fresh produce to residents in need.”
In addition to gleaning firsthand, Assemblyman Andrzejczak is also sponsoring a three-bill legislative package to raise awareness of gleaning in New Jersey.
The first piece of legislation (AJR-93) would annually designate the third week in September of each year as “New Jersey Gleaning Week.” The week would serve to promote awareness of food insecurity and food waste in the Garden State and would encourage residents to participate in gleaning activities to help provide fresh, healthy foods to those in need.
The second measure (AJR-94) would annually designate the Wednesday of New Jersey Gleaning Week as “Farmers Against Hunger Day.” The day would recognize and promote the efforts of farmers, community organizations, businesses and volunteers who donate and deliver fresh, healthy food to those in need.
The third bill (A-4079) would direct the state Department of Agriculture to establish and promote webpages dedicated to New Jersey Gleaning Week and Farmers Against Hunger Day, for the purposes of:
- educating the public on the issues of food insecurity and food waste;
- recognizing the need for residents to have access to fresh, healthy foods; and
- informing the public of any events offered during the week and the day.