(TRENTON) – A legislative package sponsored by Assembly Democrats Adam Taliaferro, Eric Houghtaling, Bob Andrzejczak and Angela McKnight that would make it easier for certain entities to donate excess food to food assistance programs was approved Thursday by an Assembly panel.
“It is almost sinful to waste food that could help feed people in need,” said Taliaferro (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem). “Providing a how-to guide to schools on how to donate excess food could help increase supply for food banks. This not only helps reduce food waste, but helps provide for people who depend on food assistance programs to feed themselves and their families.”
“Schools may already be interested in doing this, but may not know how or may be worried about legalities,” said Houghtaling (D-Monmouth). “It would be a wonderful lesson to students about civic-mindedness and, more importantly, it would help support food assistance organizations that operate in communities where the demand often surpasses supply.”
“Food pantries provide an honorable and important service and deserve our support,” said Andrzejczak (D-Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland). “If we make it easier to donate food, I’m certain our school districts and colleges and universities will step up to the plate, and support the food banks and charities in the state that are so instrumental to the survival of our less fortunate residents.”
“The governor could have avoided cuts to the SNAP program by signing the Heat and Eat bill, but instead he vetoed the bill. Many of our food banks are already overburdened, and these cuts will only make the problem worse,” said McKnight (D-Hudson). “Creating a process that allows these demands to be met efficiently can help ensure that these organizations can provide for their clients, and that the residents who rely on these programs for nourishment won’t go hungry.”
The first bill (A-3056), sponsored by Taliaferro, Houghtaling and Andrzejczak, would require the Department of Agriculture, in consultation with the Department of Education, the Department of Health, and the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education, to establish or work with appropriate nonprofit organizations to establish voluntary guidelines to encourage and facilitate the ability of school districts and institutions of higher education to donate excess, unused, edible food from meals served at schools to local voluntary food assistance programs.
These programs would include but not be limited to food banks, food pantries, soup kitchens, and other nonprofit organizations that distribute food to the poor and the disadvantaged.
These guidelines would include: (1) information on food waste, and the need of food assistance programs for food; (2) recommendations on how schools may incorporate this information into their curricula, and create programs and activities for the donation of food; (3) information on the types of food schools may donate; (4) a cost-effective, safe, and sanitary means for donation of food; and (5) a means by which schools and local voluntary food assistance programs may connect with each other. The bill would require the Department of Education and the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education to publish these guidelines on their respective websites.
The bill would also amend the “Food Bank Good Samaritan Act” to extend legal immunity to school districts that donate food, which appears to be fit for human consumption at the time it is donated, to a nonprofit organization. Institutions of higher education already receive such immunity.
The second bill (A-3414), sponsored by McKnight, would require the Department of Agriculture to establish and maintain, or partner with a nonprofit organization to establish and maintain, a website to serve as a clearinghouse for wholesale and retail food vendors, including but not limited to restaurants, supermarkets, and produce markets, to provide surplus food products to food banks and other food charities throughout the state.
The site must include a list of food banks and food charities with a need for surplus food products, organized by county, with hyperlinks to each individual food bank or food charity website.
The bills were released by the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.