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Carter, Benson, & Mejia Bill Establishing New Jersey Food Waste Task Force Clears Assembly Human Services Panel

(TRENTON) – Creating a 12-member panel tasked with finding ways New Jersey can reach its goal to reduce food waste 50 percent by 2030, the bill – sponsored by Assembly Democrats Linda Carter, Daniel Benson and Pedro Mejia – cleared its first legislative hurdle Thursday.

The bill (A-4705) was among 14 comprehensive measures released by the Assembly Human Services Panel working together to put an end to hunger in the state.

“Forty percent of the food produced in the United States ends up uneaten and tossed into the garbage each year,” said Carter (D-Union). “As one in 10 residents in New Jersey face food insecurity, more than 400 pounds of food per person is loss or wasted. It’s a shame and we must figure out actionable steps to prevent and reduce food waste going forward.”

Legislation was signed into law in 2017 establishing a food waste reduction goal of 50 percent by 2030. The law requires the DEP, in conjunction with the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, to develop a plan with public input to accomplish this goal, yet the plan has not been developed.

This legislation takes the next step and would establish the New Jersey Food Waste Task Force within the Department of Human Services to be responsible for identifying and examining the factors that lead to food waste in the State, and identifying strategies, policies, and legislative and executive actions that may be used to:
· prevent food waste;
· increase food donations;
· provide consumers with education on food storage;
· lower unreasonably high cosmetic standards for fruit and vegetables;
· cease or significantly reduce the reject even marginally imperfect-looking food;
· build Statewide systems to distribute surplus edible food to charities;
· eliminate unnecessary State statutes or regulations that contribute to food waste; and
· modify “best by” food labels consistent with uniform national standards, to inform consumers the latest possible date food can be safely consumed.

“About 14% of New Jersey households struggle to fight hunger and lack consistent access to food,” said Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex). “Access to affordable food is a self-evident human right, and we must continually find new ways to reduce food waste and ensure that New Jersey residents have enough to eat every day.”

“We need answers,” said Mejia. “How do we reduce food waste effectively and dramatically in this state? A task force with the sole focus of finding ways to prevent food loss will help us meet our goals and become more responsible with food donations.”

The work undertaken by the task force would supplement and be consistent with existing efforts and commitments to reduce food waste, including food donation efforts, composting efforts, date labeling efforts, and effective inventory management practices, which have been, or are being, undertaken at the national level pursuant to a uniform, nationwide model.

The task force would be required to submit a report no later than one year after organization to the Governor and the Legislature, providing its findings, and recommendations for legislative, executive, or other action as may be appropriate to reduce food waste in this State. The task force would expire upon submission of its report.