(The Center Square) – The state Senate voted unanimously on Thursday to allocate $10 million in federal dollars for food banks throughout New Jersey.
“Each day, many New Jersey families struggle to put food on the table, and unfortunately, the pandemic has only exacerbated this problem,” state Sen. Steve Oroho, R- Sussex/Warren/Morris, said in a news release. “The hunger crisis has led even more families to depend on food banks for their survival, and we need to do whatever we can to ensure those organizations can continue to support individuals and families in need.
“Over 1.2 million people in this state now suffer from food insecurity, a staggering number [that] has increased substantially because of COVID-19,” Oroho added. “By lending a helping hand to large food banks across New Jersey, we can help address this hunger crisis head-on.”
As part of A-5405/S-3527, the state will allocate $5.2 million to Community Food Bank of New Jersey, $1.5 million to the Food Bank of South Jersey, $1.5 million to Fulfill Monmouth & Ocean, $1.1 million to Mercer Street Friends Food Bank, $300,000 to Norwescap, $300,000 to the Southern Regional Food Distribution Center and $100,000 to Farmers Against Hunger.
The money was allocated to the state as part of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
“Hunger in America is a quiet crisis that has been made worse by the pandemic,” Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland, said in a news release earlier this week after the state Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee advanced the bill.
“The economic fallout has made it tragically hard for a growing number of families to put food on their tables,” Sweeney added. “Food banks provide a lifeline for those who experience the insecurity of not knowing where their next meal is coming from.”
Fred Wasiak, president and CEO of the Food Bank of South Jersey, said the money will help address “an escalated food-insecure population,” which increased from 1 in 11 residents to 1 in seven residents since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are continuing to see a population devastated by food insecurity, with more than 61,000 people – including over 26,650 children – estimated to be new to food insecurity due to the pandemic,” Wasiak said in a news release. “In 2020, we distributed more than 22 million pounds of food, the equivalent of more than 18 million meals, including a dramatic increase in child feeding from approximately 300,000 children’s meals in 2019 to nearly one million children’s meals distributed in 2020.”