Garcia Bill Aims to End Hunger in NJ, Encourages Tax Break for Businesses Donating Food to Feed Hungry

(Trenton) – Assemblyman Carmelo Garcia (D-Hudson) recently introduced legislation to allow an income tax deduction for charitable contributions of food made from business inventory.

Garcia said the intent of his legislation is to recognize and reward charitable contributions of food made to organizations that serve the underprivileged.

The bill states that over 1 million people living in New Jersey lack consistent access to enough food for active, healthy life for all household members, and have only limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods.

The new tax deduction will encourage philanthropic gifts of food in deserving organizations and help reduce the number of those who needlessly go hungry in this state.

“We should encourage businesses and organizations to work together to address the hunger epidemic in the state,” said Garcia (D-Hudson). “This bill is the first step in encouraging these partnerships and creating resources that will help families in need.

“In working on this legislation, I have received overwhelming support and cooperation from New Jersey organizations on the front lines of this issue. Their diligent work to ensure that no one in this state continues to go hungry is commendable.”

The bill allows gross income tax deductions for charitable contributions of food made in the tax year from business inventory, as allowed under the federal internal Revenue Code of 1986. the deduction mirrors the federal income tax deduction for contributions of food made from business inventory and is allowed regardless of whether the federal itemized deduction is taken by the taxpayer.

Numerous statewide organizations support Garcia’s legislation.

“The Community Food Bank of New Jersey applauds Assemblyman Garcia for introducing this important legislation,” said Diane Riley, Director of Advocacy for the Community Food Bank of New Jersey. “Encouraging charitable food donations can only help to ensure that more New Jersey residents are fed.”

“Given the urgent need for food assistance in New Jersey that far exceeds the resources of existing programs and donations, the Anti-Poverty Network is happy to support this opportunity to secure more food to feed our hungry neighbors,” said Serena Rice, Executive Director of the Anti-Poverty Network.
“Any legislation that will help get more donations into New Jersey food banks and food pantries deserves the support of legislators from every district in the state,” said Adele LaTourette, Director of the New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition.

The deduction is an itemized deduction for charitable contributions of food, where “food” is “apparently wholesome food” means “food that meets all quality and labeling standards imposed by Federal, State, and local laws and regulations even though the food may not be readily marketable due to appearance, age, freshness, grade, size, surplus, or other conditions.” The contribution must be made to organization that is determined by the Internal Revenue Service to be an organization eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions.

“The New Jersey Food Council is pleased to support this legislation and we commend Assemblyman Garcia for his leadership,” said Linda Doherty, President of the NJ Food Council. “Unfortunately many New Jersey residents struggle with food insecurity and this bill encourages charitable donations of food. NJFC member companies continually seek out ways to better serve their communities and help reduce hunger.”

“We fully support this legislation as a mechanism to benefit both retail and our most vulnerable citizens,” said John Holub, President of the NJ Retail Merchant Association. “Encouraging charitable food donations through incentives and awareness can only help ease the hardship of food security that too many New Jersey families are currently facing.

“Hunger is a painful and unrelenting reality for many New Jersey residents. Sadly the number of people who rely on food pantries continues to rise and for the past few years CUMAC and our partner pantries have been struggling to feed record numbers,” said Reverend Patricia Bruger, Executive Director of CUMAC-ECHO, one of the largest food pantries and distributors in Northern New Jersey. “Donations made by local businesses and individuals allow us to provide for all who need us. We fully support any piece of legislation that incentivizes food donations and acknowledges the businesses and individuals who work to ensure none among us go hungry.”

In 2012, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Americans threw out roughly 35 million tons of food, which is nearly 20 percent more food than the Unites States tossed out on 2000, 50 percent more in 1990 and nearly three times than 1960.

“Today’s statistics on food waste does not make sense when many people in this country are worried about where their next meal is coming from,” said Garcia. “We can do more. We will do more. It begins with legislation like this one.”

The bill was referred to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.