Speaker Coughlin Leads Delegation from New Jersey Headed to White House for Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health

On Wednesday, the White House will convene leaders from all across the country to host the nation’s first Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health in over 50 years. Among the invited guests making their way to Washington are a group from New Jersey, comprised of Assembly Speaker Craig J. Coughlin, President and CEO Carlos Rodriguez of the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, Executive Director Mark Dinglasan of New Jersey’s Office of the Food Security Advocate, and individuals with lived experiences of food insecurity.

“Over the last five years, knowing that it is our moral obligation to tackle hunger, I’ve worked to make food security one of our top legislative priorities in New Jersey,” said Assembly Speaker Craig J. Coughlin (D-Middlesex). “As a result, our state has been able to develop a comprehensive policy approach. From boosting funding to creating the nation’s first ever Food Security Advocate and strategically improving the reach and impact of critical safety net programs like SNAP and school meals, we have become a model. I look forward to the opportunity to highlight these achievements in my conversations at the conference and, likewise, to come back with more ideas and a framework that can inform us as we move forward in this fight.”

New Jersey’s commitment to take action on food insecurity is evidenced by the historic $85 million investment in the Fiscal Year 2023 State Budget – almost three times the direct allocation in last year’s budget. It is a year-to-year funding effort that has combined with the signing of more than 30 pieces of anti-hunger legislation since 2018 to boost the state’s initiatives and response to the ongoing hunger crisis.

“As President & CEO of New Jersey’s largest food bank, I am proud of our state’s leadership and progress in the fight against hunger. Together, we’ve worked to meet our neighbors where they are with a strategic combination of policies, improvements to access, and increased resources to meet immediate needs and improve families’ overall food security,” said Carlos Rodriguez, President & CEO of the Community FoodBank of New Jersey. “This White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, & Health will be the first one in more than fifty years. New Jersey will contribute to a productive conversation that incorporates lived experiences of neighbors in need and results in actionable next steps towards a hunger-free nation.”

“As the first director of New Jersey’s Office of the Food Security Advocate, the first of its kind in the nation, I’m honored to represent New Jersey with Speaker Coughlin and the other delegates from New Jersey at the White House Conference on Hunger,” said Mark Dinglasan, Executive Director of the Office of the Food Security Advocate.“Food security has been defined as existing when ‘all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.’ To achieve such a grand vision, there must be a holistic, multi-sector approach to tackling hunger. Under the leadership of Governor Murphy, Speaker Coughlin, Senator Booker, and others, we have all the makings of this in New Jersey. With the support of President Biden and Congress, specifically Senator Booker, our state now has a tremendous opportunity to share our perspective on our unique and exciting mix of legislative support, systems change efforts, and community based programming on September 28th.”

Lack of access to healthy, safe, and affordable food, and to safe outdoor spaces, contributes to hunger, diet-related diseases, and health disparities. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these challenges further. The national strategy on hunger, nutrition, and health stands on five pillars with the expressed goal of the White House to end hunger and increase healthy eating and physical activity by 2030.

“Due largely to the consistent, impassioned, effective leadership of Speaker Coughlin, the State of New Jersey has been on the cutting edge of both fighting hunger and improving nutrition,” said Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America. “New Jersey is a state with both great hunger needs and very significant resources, including some of the East Coast’s greatest fruit and vegetable production. It is highly fitting that Speaker Coughlin is leading a distinguished delegation from New Jersey to the historic White House conference, which aims to create and implement a comprehensive plan to end hunger and dramatically improve the nation’s nutrition by 2030. I hope New Jersey can continue to play a leading role in pushing to achieve those absolutely vital goals.”