From the Legislature
By Vin Gopal, Eric Houghtaling and Joann Downey
Too many people became familiar with the term “food-insecure” over the past year. Even as we recover and businesses reopen, many Monmouth County residents don’t have enough to eat. Too many are seniors and children.
That’s why we’re holding this year’s Annual Legislative District 11 Food Drive to help our seniors and families. We’ve been collecting nonperishable foods since May 1 and will continue collecting through June 30 in the drop box outside the building entrance for our Legislative District 11 Office in Ocean Township at 802 West Park Avenue, Building 3, Suite 302. You can also donate through our Amazon Wishlist at www.Tinyurl.com/LD11FoodDrive. We will deliver your donations to our nonprofit partners who run local food pantries and food banks and senior centers.
We’ve had opportunities to work with local nonprofits throughout Monmouth County and they have done a great job of helping people in need get through unprecedented times. It has been at once heart-warming and heart-wrenching.
We saw so many people who never thought they would be the ones asking for help waiting in long lines to pick up donated food. We were delivering food to Fulfill, the Food Bank of Monmouth and Ocean counties, last winter when we saw a mile-long line of cars.
That’s why we’re asking residents to donate nonperishable food – including canned tuna, chicken and salmon, soup, hot and cold cereals, canned vegetables and fruits, juice, ready-to-make dinners, small plastic jars of peanut butter and jelly – to help food-insecure seniors and families.
More help is on the way for people who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, which supplements the food budget of needy families so they can purchase healthy food. We’re pleased to say the governor signed our bill, A4240, into law last week making it easier to apply for SNAP. The bill requires the state Commissioner of Human Services to make the technology upgrades needed to permit people to apply by phone or online and upload documents by email.
Two of our bills that address the SNAP program passed the Assembly late last year and are pending in the Senate. They call for biennial surveys of SNAP recipients to identify the strengths and weaknesses of each county welfare agency’s program and would require DHS and the Department of Higher Education to increase outreach to students in institutions of higher education or post-secondary education.
Another bill that would help, S3403, directs the state Secretary of Agriculture to develop a food bank funding program to provide consistent, ongoing grants to food banks and organizations that operate them.
We also are continuing to fight to have funding included in the Fiscal Year 2022 state budget for food banks and nonprofits that help food insecure residents. We secured $3 million in the current budget for Fulfill and the 289 food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, day programs, group homes, and other organizations Fulfill helps supply.
No one should ever have to go to bed hungry. We’ve all heard that for years but the past 14 months have delivered the message with alarming clarity. Forty percent of the people that Fulfill served through its food pantries and community feeding programs last year were children. An estimated 1.2 million people were food insecure in NJ at the end of last year, and 9.8 percent were seniors 60 or older.
So, if you can, please show your support by donating to the LD11 Annual Food Drive and help fight food insecurity in our county.