Food banks will receive $1.5 million in state aid

Food banks will receive $1.5 million in state aid

To help serve the growing number of New Jerseyans in need of food assistance, the state will provide six regional food banks with $1.5 million, the McGreevey administration announced. The funding was given in conjunction with World Food Day and announced at a press conference organized by the New Jersey Anti-Hunger Leaders, a broad coalition of anti-hunger advocates.

"We’re helping our food banks put warm meals in front of those who need them this winter," said Gov. James E. McGreevey. "Our administration is committed to ensuring the health and well-being of our most vulnerable citizens who need food and proper nutrition."

The funding, which will come from the Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Act of 2001, was recommended by the Hunger Prevention Advisory Committee, a panel appointed by the governor to oversee a needs assessment of the state’s emergency food programs and to advise the Department of Human Services (DHS). The committee, which includes representatives of various state departments, agencies providing emergency shelter and feeding programs, and the general public, recommended the release of $1.5 million of the funds appropriated under the act.

The act provided a total of $5 million. Nearly $1 million was distributed in prior years. The recent release of $1.5 million for the state’s food banks leaves about $2.5 million of the appropriation remaining. The committee will make recommendations on distributing those funds in the future, according to the McGreevey administration.

"People are hurting in this economy, and this is something we can do right now to help ease the pain," said DHS Commissioner Gwendolyn L. Harris, who presented the check for the funds at the press conference.

The regional food banks that will share the newly released funds are the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, the Community FoodBank — Southern Branch, the Food Bank of South Jersey, the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, Mercer Street Friends Food Cooperative, and the NORWESCAP food bank.

According to a press release, McGreevey pledged to consider the state initiatives recommended in the blueprint. He also praised the work of soup kitchens, food pantries and special programs that help feed the hungry throughout the state.

The New Jersey Department of Agriculture administers programs that annually distribute nearly 40 million pounds of federally donated foods each year through the School Breakfast and Lunch programs, and through The Emergency Food Assistance Program, which supplies more than 500 food pantries, soup kitchens and homeless shelters across the state.

Additionally, the Department of Agriculture has expanded its network of community farmers markets, which pro­vide an important source of fresh fruits and vegetables for nutritionally at-risk seniors, women and children, and is a sponsor of Farmers Against Hunger — a program that annually collects more than 1 million pounds of fresh produce from N.J. farmers and distributes it through local community organizations to those in need.

In addition to providing direct funding for hunger programs, the Department of Human Services is working to address hunger by increasing participation in the Food Stamp program, according to the press release.

Approximately 150,000 households in New Jersey currently receive food stamps. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that New Jersey’s caseloads represent only 53 percent of households that appear to be eligible for food stamps.

Later this year, the food stamp application and a benefit-screening tool will be posted on the DHS Internet Web site at