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TRENTON – Governor Jon S. Corzine today announced the early distribution of nearly $1 million to New Jersey’s six emergency food distribution operations to ease shortages reported by food pantries in the state.
The funding is part of the Governor’s Hunger Initiative and was originally scheduled for distribution later this month. The Governor moved up the distribution date following reported shortages of supplies at food banks and news that food pantries were closing due to food supplies that were nearly depleted. He also ordered an increase in the level of funding to help in the crisis. The originally scheduled amount for this quarter was $770,000, compared to the $987,500 announced today.
Governor Corzine made the announcement at the Center of United Methodist Aid to the Community (CUMAC), a pantry in Passaic County that had earlier announced it would have to shut down due to a lack of food to distribute.
“In these difficult economic times, many people are turning to their local food pantries to feed their families. The guiding purpose of the hunger funds is to provide those pantries with additional, nutritious food,” said Governor Corzine. “Helping those in need remains a top priority in our state, and we will continue to monitor the situation to ensure that New Jersey’s emergency feeding operations have what they need to continue their mission.”
New Jersey’s food banks are reporting as much as a 30 percent increase in families seeking food assistance, while food supplies are down by 19 percent from the same time last year.
“We are communicating with our six regional food banks to stay up-to-date on their supplies and increased demand to avert pantry closures,” said New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Charles M. Kuperus. “We also are working with the United States Department of Agriculture to ensure adequate flow of donated food items to the food banks through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP).”
The state Department of Agriculture operates TEFAP, which distributes food donated by the USDA through a network of 660 food pantries, soup kitchens and other feeding operations. Last year, the department distributed more than 10 million pounds of the USDA commodities. However, higher food prices this year have caused USDA to cancel some food shipments.
“CUMAC’s situation, unfortunately, is a harbinger if donations and contributions continue to dwindle,” said state Department of Human Services Commissioner Jennifer Velez. “Food pantries and food banks are a critical element of our social services system to provide sustenance to our disenfranchised residents. The unstable economy has created an increased reliability upon these agencies – most particularly from low-wage, working families who factor this support into their budgets to offset other monthly expenses, including rent, gas, home heating and health care.”
Governor Corzine’s budget for the fiscal year that began on July 1 allocated $4 million for his Hunger Initiative, administered by the state Department of Agriculture through the State Food Purchase Program (SFPP). The funding is disseminated to the food banks for the purchase of nutritious foods in four quarterly installments throughout the year.
The first quarter checks mailed out in July totaled $1,155,000. That amount represented 30 percent of the total funds. The second and third payments were to be 20 percent each and the final payment 30 percent. The two higher installments were targeted during the New Jersey growing season to accommodate purchases of Jersey Fresh produce.
The checks distributed today include:
- $681,350 for Community Food Bank of New Jersey, Hillside;
- $144,742 for Food Bank of South Jersey, Pennsauken;
- $82,146 for Food Bank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, Neptune;
- $43,934 for Mercer Street Friends, Ewing;
- $20,884 for NORWESCAP, Phillipsburg; and,
- $14,444 for Southern Regional Food Distribution Center, Vineland.
The SFPP began in 2006 with a $3 million allocation for food purchases, which enabled food banks to purchase 3.9 million pounds of food. On average, the program fed 69,110 recipients each month for the first year of the program. Another million dollars was used to purchase refrigerators, freezers, and other necessary equipment.
In 2007 the program was continued with $4 million for food purchases, with $100,000 used to help gleaning operations. Gleaning organizations gather surplus food directly from farmers and distribute the produce to hunger relief centers in the state.
The amounts allocated to each of the six emergency feeding operations are based on the number of people they serve and other criteria. The next quarterly fund distributions are slated for February and May 2009.
For information on the State Food Purchase Program, visit: www.nj.gov/agriculture/divisions/fn/fooddistrib/foodpurchaseprogram.html.