(NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J.) – On Thursday, U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and New Jersey General Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin hosted a listening session with New Jersey anti-hunger advocates, state officials, and agricultural stakeholders in advance of the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health scheduled for next month.
The roundtable discussion highlighted food insecurity and hunger in New Jersey, the need to reform our nation’s food system, and the rising incidence of diet-related diseases. A recent report found that one in 12 New Jersey households experienced food insecurity from 2018 to 2020 and that chronic health conditions resulting from food insecurity cost New Jersey about $1.3 billion each year. Nationally, the number of people under the age of 20 living with Type-II diabetes grew by 95% from 2001 to 2017, with the greatest increases seen in Black and Hispanic youth.
Earlier this year, Booker successfully fought to secure funding for a second White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. The first such conference was held more than 50 years ago in 1969, culminating in the creation and expansion of programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and the National School Breakfast and Lunch Program. The purpose of the second conference is to take a whole-of-government approach to ending hunger and combatting nutrition insecurity, featuring diverse stakeholders such as independent family farmers and ranchers, health care professionals, and anti-hunger advocates.
“The second White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health provides us with the opportunity to create a roadmap to reform America’s failed food policies that have left Americans without access to affordable, nutritious foods and have caused an explosion of diet-related diseases,” said Sen. Booker. “To achieve success, it’s incredibly important that we bring together stakeholders of different backgrounds who are on the frontlines of the dual hunger and nutrition crises that are impacting millions of Americans. I am grateful for the government leaders, anti-hunger activists, and medical professionals who shared their perspectives at today’s listening session. Their experiences are vital ahead of next month’s White House Conference, and I look forward to incorporating them as I work with President Biden and the White House to develop comprehensive solutions so that all people have equitable access to healthy food options.”
“Right now, far too many in our country and across the great state of New Jersey grapple with food insecurity. More than a governmental obligation, we have a moral obligation to make sure people are able to access healthy and nutritious foods which in turn empowers them to lead successful and fulfilling lives,” said New Jersey Assembly Speaker Craig J. Coughlin. “Addressing the challenges of food access caused by food deserts, strengthening critical federal food aid programs like school meals, and supporting emergency feeding organizations and food banks in their work to sustain communities are just some of the comprehensive and multidimensional strategies we have employed as a state to ensure people’s most basic food needs are met. There is more work to do and, by sharing New Jersey’s perspective and successes in this area, it is my hope we help ignite the conversation at the national level to produce a blueprint for meaningful change and action toward food security.”
“I am proud to take part in the listening session today on hunger with Speaker Coughlin and Senator Cory Booker,” said Assemblyman Roy Freiman. “Hunger has long been a growing crisis in our State affecting many New Jersey families and seniors in every community. Today with experts, advocates, and lawmakers together at a table, we worked to uncover the next actionable step we can take toward ending hunger in New Jersey.”
“Rutgers is happy to welcome our state and federal partners in the effort to address food and nutrition issues,” said Jonathan Holloway, President of Rutgers University. “The leadership of Sen Booker and Speaker Coughlin on these issues is as important as it is impressive. These are critical issues as we all work to make New Jersey one of the best places to live, work and learn.”
Last month, Booker invited New Jerseyans to share feedback for the upcoming White House conference. More than 60 New Jersey anti-hunger advocates, state and local officials, medical professionals, direct service providers, family farmers, agricultural stakeholders, and people who have personally experienced the impact of hunger, food insecurity, or diet-related illness submitted comments shared with the White House.
Additional quotes from attendees at the listening session can be found here.