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Photo of Secretary Kuperus filling grocery bags - Click to enlarge
Secretary of Agriculture Helps Pack Holiday Groceries Purchased with Hunger Money
For Immediate Release: November 15, 2007
Contact: Lynne Richmond
(609) 633-2954

(TRENTON) – New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Charles M. Kuperus today rolled up his sleeves along with a group of corporate volunteers at the Mercer Street Friends Food Bank to put together Thanksgiving dinner baskets for needy families in Mercer County. 

Together, they packed cranberry sauce, canned sweet potatoes, green beans and oranges, stuffing mix, macaroni and cheese, and fresh potatoes and carrots.  Frozen turkeys will go into the baskets tomorrow, when local food pantries come to pick up the baskets.  All the food was purchased with money from Governor Jon S. Corzine’s Hunger Initiative.

“The Governor’s hunger funds are making a real difference this Thanksgiving in the lives of the needy in New Jersey, providing healthier fresh foods in addition to the boxed or canned goods,” said Secretary Kuperus.  “During the holidays and all year round, this extra money is helping our state’s food pantries, soup kitchens and homeless shelters to feed additional people nutritious foods.”

The New Jersey Department of Agriculture administers the Governor’s Hunger Initiative, which is providing $4 million for nutritious food purchases this fiscal year, through the State Food Purchase Program (SFPP).

Since July, Mercer Street Friends has received $86,452 through the program.  Funding for infrastructure improvements from last year’s program allowed them to purchase refrigerators and freezers for the member agencies, who now have the ability to store and distribute poultry, fish, lean meat, fresh and frozen vegetables, fruits and juices.

In total for the Thanksgiving holiday, Mercer Street Friends will be distributing 43,853 pounds of food, including 8,160 pounds of produce and 1,200 turkeys at a cost of $25,991, paid for with SFPP funds. 

“Our food bank would not be able to provide this volume of food for Thanksgiving without the SFPP and, most certainly, we would not be able to include fresh produce or offer so many turkeys,” said Phyllis Stoolmacher, Mercer Street Friends Food Bank Director.  “Over 1,200 families in Mercer County will benefit from these holiday food baskets.  More important is the impact the SFPP has year-long in enabling our food bank to channel the healthiest food into our community and reach more residents at risk for hunger.”

Secretary Kuperus was joined in putting the Thanksgiving baskets together by 15 volunteers from NRG Energy of West Windsor.  The company is a sponsor of the Check-Out Hunger campaign in New Jersey supermarkets. Check-Out Hunger donation slips are available in check-out aisles of supermarkets where patrons can donate a small amount of money, which is directed to their local food bank.  Last year, Mercer Street Friends received a record $80,000 from the campaign.  

Kuperus also hand delivered a Photo of Secretary Kuperus giving Mercer Street Friends a grant check grant check for $8,209 to Mercer Street Friends.   The funding is part of a larger  grant for the Department of Agriculture’s six emergency feeding organizations (EFO) from the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program, a federal cash assistance program for welfare clients, administered in the state by the Department of Human Services.

Secretary Kuperus gives TANF grant check to
Phyllis Stoolmacher and Mercer Street Friends
Executive Director Barry Cole

A total of $125,000 in TANF grants were distributed today.  The amounts received by the five other EFOs are as follows:  Community Food Bank of New Jersey, $54,773; FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, $26,688; Food Bank of South Jersey, $25,781; NORWESCAP, $6,665; and, Southern Regional Food Distribution Center, $2,881.

The State Food Purchase Program began in 2006 with a $3 million allocation for nutrient-dense food purchases for the hungry, which enabled the state’s six food banks to purchase 3.9 million pounds of food in the last fiscal year.   SFPP audits indicate that 47 percent of the food purchased was fruits and vegetables, either frozen, canned, fresh or dried.  

In addition, the Department operates the Emergency Food Assistance Program, which distributes food donated by the United States Department of Agriculture through a network of 660 food pantries, soup kitchens and other feeding operations.  Last year, the Department distributed more than 6.4 million pounds of the USDA commodities.