With more than 1 million New Jersey residents needing food assistance as a result of the hardships imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Assembly Speaker Craig J. Coughlin, Assemblyman Vincent Mazzeo and Assemblyman Herb Conaway sponsor a bill to create the Office of Food Insecurity Advocate to help address food insecurity in the state. The legislation unanimously passed the full Assembly and Senate Thursday.
The measure (A-5884/S-3945) would establish the Office of Food Insecurity Advocate within the Executive Branch of the State Government to improve access to food relief programs, develop new policy initiatives to combat hunger, and serve as an advocate for food insecure residents.
“This pandemic has taken a toll on countless residents – many of whom are struggling to put food on the table for the first time in their lives,” said Speaker Coughlin (D-Middlesex). “Food insecurity has far-reaching, long-term effects that must be addressed on behalf of New Jersey families and communities. A Food Insecurity Advocate will help ensure our efforts to assist residents in need are as effective and helpful as possible.”
The duties of this office would include, but not be limited to, developing initiatives and campaigns to increase enrollment in food insecurity programs; coordinating communication with/between food banks; encouraging the reduction of food waste at food banks; working with various partners to address food insecurity and gaps in food assistance programming; and more.
“Now, more than ever, a Food Insecurity Advocate is needed to ensure our residents receive the relief they need as many grapple with food insecurity due to pandemic-related financial difficulties,” said Assemblyman Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). “This office will play a critical role in helping our state develop anti-hunger policy initiatives and improve existing programs and services for families in need.”
“We have many different organizations and agencies throughout our state working to address food insecurity in New Jersey,” said Assemblyman Conaway (D-Burlington). “Designating one office to help bring these groups together and coordinate anti-hunger efforts is an efficient way to ensure more of our residents receive the food assistance they need.”
The bill is part of a larger package addressing food insecurity in New Jersey. It now heads to the Governor.