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Hunger and Nutrition in New Jersey

At any one time, there are more than 475,000 children in New Jersey who qualify for free or reduced-price school meals and are therefore considered to be at risk of being hungry. This number continues to grow. Research shows that in children, hunger not only attacks physical well-being, but also contributes to a loss of concentration, performance and intellectual growth.

In May 2003, the Governor announced a series of initiatives to combat childhood obesity and improve children’s academic performance by promoting better nutrition and physical activity in schools. The new "Healthy Choices, Healthy Kids" campaign is being spearheaded by the Department of Agriculture in cooperation with the Departments of Education and Health and Senior Services. The Department is amending the child nutrition program rule to require all schools to develop a school nutrition policy and replace unhealthy foods with more nutritious alternatives. Training will be provided focusing on marketing nutritious foods to children and incorporating more fruits and vegetables into the school meal program. In addition, the Department is working with Rutgers University’s Farm to School Initiative to increase the use of locally grown farm products in schools.

The National Research Council offers nine guidelines for reducing chronic disease in the United States. Near the top of the list, just below reducing fat and cholesterol, is eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Research conducted by the University of Southern California School of Medicine also found that eating more vegetables and fruits reduces many types of cancer, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, and infectious illnesses.

Since 1994, the Women, Infant and Children (WIC) Farmers Market Program, has created an excellent opportunity to provide Jersey Fresh fruits and vegetables to a segment of the nutritionally at risk population who wouldn't normally purchase farm fresh produce. In 2002, the WIC Farmers Market Program served more than 38,000 New Jersey children, infants and breastfeeding women.

Making elderly citizens eligible for the Senior Farmers Market Program during the 2003 growing season further expanded the nutritional benefits of farm fresh produce to over 23,000 economically disadvantaged senior citizens who participated in the pilot program. A sound, balanced, nutritional diet is important to the well being of society both in terms of the future productivity of our children and the health and well being of the population in general.

We applaud the New Jersey Agricultural Society’s Farmers Against Hunger Program, which through its gleaning and distribution programs reach our needy. Farmers Against Hunger distributed 1.5 million pounds of food to over 6,000 families in 2004. Over 500,000 pounds came from our New Jersey farmers through the gleaning and donation programs.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED
, that we, the delegates to the 90th State Agriculture Convention, assembled in Atlantic City, New Jersey on January 24-26, 2005, support the efforts of the New Jersey Department of Agriculture to ensure that healthy food choices and fresh fruits and vegetables are available to all children and adults throughout New Jersey.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Department be a leader in the promotion of healthy foods and sound dietary choices to improve the well being of New Jersey's citizens by promoting Healthy Choices, Healthy Kids.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Department encourages all state institutions and schools to purchase locally grown produce when available throughout the year and assist with the expansion of the Farm to School Initiative, which encompasses the following areas:
· The Department will work with the Farm to School Project currently administered by the New Jersey Urban Ecology Program to work through the challenges of increasing the use of locally grown products by school food service.
· The Department will develop and support initiatives to overcome the issue of seasonality and distribution of Jersey Fresh products. Value added products would be developed/expanded to increase extended availability of these products.
· The Department will continue to work with the Department of Defense’s Fresh Produce Program (“DOD Fresh”) to expand the inclusion of Jersey Fresh products offered monthly through the Food Distribution Program.
· The Department will make contact with Jersey fruit and vegetable processing companies to produce pre-packaged, value-added, single-serving fruit and vegetable products for use in school food service menus.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we support the WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program and encourage the New Jersey Congressional Delegation to support and sponsor the movement in Washington, D.C., to increase federal funding in the USDA's budget for both the WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program and the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program in 2005.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we encourage the New Jersey Congressional delegation to vigorously oppose any efforts to direct any portion of these funds away from the original intent of the Farmers Market Nutrition Programs and into any form supermarket-based programs.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that all of the food banks in New Jersey, Tri-County Community Action Agency, and Farmers Against Hunger continue to collaborate in their efforts to collect excess produce from farms and distribute this produce to needy families through the New Jersey Produce Recovery Network.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we support full Title 32 funding from USDA to ensure the provision of bonus food commodities through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) to more than 250,000 families via emergency food pantries, soup kitchens and homeless shelters throughout New Jersey to be used in the preparation of more than 300,000 meals per month.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED
, recognizing that children learn eating habits at home as well as at school, we support and encourage the dedication of additional funding for the Rutgers Cooperative Extension Living Well Program to provide healthy lifestyle education to all citizens of New Jersey regardless of income level.

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