Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law a comprehensive legislative package to address food insecurity in New Jersey. The package, comprised of six bills, will expand access to New Jersey Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and bolster school meal programs as well as establish a new government office.
Under the legislation, the Office of the Food Insecurity Advocate would be established. Additionally, a law would direct the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development to include information on SNAP for any materials connected to unemployment benefits.
“It is unacceptable that so many of our most vulnerable people are going without enough food,” said Gov. Murphy. “With today’s bill signings, we are continuing our ongoing commitment to end food insecurity in New Jersey by strengthening food assistance and providing support to communities across the state.”
Helping Food Banks
The bills found support among New Jersey’s philanthropic sector as well.
“We welcome the signing of these bills which will strengthen access and coordination of food resources for our New Jerseyans in need and applaud the Governor and legislature for their continued focus on nourishing our neighbors,” said Carlos Rodriguez, President and CEO, Community FoodBank of New Jersey.
State Sen. Vin Gopal (D-11) noted SNAP would benefit from a mobile software upgrade via a $2 million investment. He said the program would likely help with supply shortages typical near the beginning of the month as SNAP benefits are distributed.
“Streamlining access to SNAP benefits is a practical way forward in the 21st century, and will allow recipients greater flexibility. Mobile-friendly software will make it easier for recipients to make changes, check balances and keep track of their benefits,” he said.
State Sen. Shirley Turner (D-15) lauded a program that would help senior citizens by making the program easier to access.
“SNAP benefits have always been our first line of defense in fighting hunger. Making it easier for senior citizens and people who are out of work to apply for programs like SNAP helps to reduce food insecurity, lift our residents out of poverty, and enable them to spend more on groceries that will keep them healthy, “she said.
A Focus on Schools, Summer Meals
The legislative package would be a boon to food-insecure children by feeding them at schools, according to State Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-29). This was especially important to the in-coming State Senate Majority Leader, as the pandemic showed how vital schools were for many children in the state when it came to hunger.
“Establishing a state supplement that will be funded annually guarantees provision and support for this critical program which ensures that students have the fuel they need to focus and succeed throughout their school day,” said Ruiz.
The legislative package would expand offerings in the Summer Food Service Program as well.
“Children who lack consistent access to nutritious food are more likely to experience physical, social and behavioral issues – including developmental impairments,” said Assemblyman Herb Conaway (D-7). “It is our state’s responsibility to maintain the health and well-being of our children by continuing to provide them with nutritious meals throughout the year.”