Measures Seek to Put the Billions in Food that Go to Waste Each Year to Good Use
The full Assembly on Monday unanimously approved a three-bill package sponsored by Assemblymen Tim Eustace, Bob Andrzejczak, Adam Taliaferro and Gilbert “Whip” Wilson to combat hunger by making good use of the billions of dollars in food that goes to waste every year in the United States.
The sponsors noted that each year, approximately 40 percent of the food supply in the U.S. goes uneaten due to losses at the farm, retail, and consumer levels. This wasted food costs Americans $165 billion in retail sales and uses up valuable water and energy resources. Meanwhile, 49 million Americans, including 16 million children, are at risk of going hungry. In New Jersey, alone, 1.15 million people, including 375,000 children, are affected by food insecurity.
“It’s staggering to think of the number of people that go hungry in our country every day and particularly heartbreaking during the holiday season,” said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). “We can significantly curb hunger in the U.S. if we simply make a concerted and compassionate commitment to increase the efficiency of our food system and not let anything go to waste. This requires a collaborative effort to increase awareness of gleaning so that we can give people the tools they need to make a real difference.”
The first measure (AJR-93) would designate the third week of September as “New Jersey Gleaning Week.”
Gleaning is the process of collecting excess fresh foods from farms, gardens, farmers markets, grocers, restaurants, state and county fairs, or other sources in order to provide it to those in need.
“Gleaning prevents food waste, gives low income populations access to fresh, healthy foods, provides valuable resources to nonprofit agencies, and builds good relations between community members and farmers,” said Andrzejczak (D-Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland). “Given the abundance of wealth in this country, no American should ever have to go hungry, especially when we have so much excess food that goes to waste.”
The second measure (AJR-94) designates the Wednesday of “New Jersey Gleaning Week,” the third week in September, as “Farmers Against Hunger Day” in order to recognize and promote the efforts of farmers, community organizations, businesses, and volunteers who donate and deliver fresh, healthy food to those in need.
“Gleaning is an innovative and resourceful approach to combating hunger,” said Taliaferro (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem). “With millions of people in this country going hungry every year, it’s important that we not only raise awareness of the issue, but take action to help make it a thing of the past.”
“It’s an utter shame to think how much food is wasted on a daily basis when it could be going to such a worthwhile cause,” said Wilson (D-Camden/Gloucester). “Nobody in this country, especially children, should have to go to bed hungry at night. Gleaning can help us make sure that doesn’t happen.”
The measure requires the governor to annually issue a proclamation calling upon public officials and residents to observe “Farmers Against Hunger Day” with appropriate activities and programs, and to coordinate their activities and programs with those annually planned for “New Jersey Gleaning Week.” The measure also directs the Department of Agriculture to take appropriate measures each year to publicize “Farmers Against Hunger Day.”
The sponsors pointed out that individuals can get involved in gleaning by connecting with various nonprofit organizations, such as the New Jersey Agricultural Society’s Farmers Against Hunger program, which sponsors gleanings across the State between September and November.
To that end, the last bill (A-4079) directs the Department of Agriculture to publish on its website, on the same page, information promoting related events and activities that includes: a “Farmers Against Hunger Day” page; a “New Jersey Gleaning Week” page; and a link to the New Jersey Agricultural Society for farmers to access, and express their need for, volunteers for gleaning.
The bills now head to the Senate for consideration.