WHEREAS, schools can serve as an outreach tool to carry positive nutrition messages to parents and the community at large; and
WHEREAS, schools are required to develop and implement a school nutrition/wellness policy and to promote nutritious alternatives, and the Department continues to train and encourage marketing nutritious foods to children and incorporating more fresh fruits and vegetables into the school meal program; and
WHEREAS, a sound, balanced, nutritional diet is important to the wellbeing of society, both in terms of the future productivity of our children and the health and wellbeing of the population in general; and
WHEREAS, reflecting the entire nation’s ongoing economic tribulations,1.6 million people in New Jersey rely upon various feeding and nutrition programs administered by or through the Department; and
WHEREAS, local purchases of food items including fresh fruits and vegetables can benefit the local economy, growers and distributors, thus reducing the number of “food miles” those commodities must travel to reach the end consumers; and
WHEREAS, volunteer gleaning organizations that provide surplus produce from farms to community feeding operations are a valuable source of fresh agricultural products that do not demand financial resources for purchasing this food, yet still have costs related to storage and transportation of this produce.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that we, the delegates to the 96th State Agricultural Convention, assembled in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, on February 8-9, 2011, do hereby continue to support the efforts of the Department and its partners in USDA, as well as community feeding organizations 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 remain a leader in the promotion of healthy foods and sound dietary choices to improve the well being of New Jersey's citizens by promoting programs such as “Eat Right, Move More,” “Jersey Fresh Farm to School”, and the New Jersey School Nutrition/Wellness Policy.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we urge the Legislature and Governor to recognize the critical nature of maintaining state funding levels supporting the federal school nutrition and commodity programs in an amount that will ensure that no accompanying federal funds are lost.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we urge those at all levels responsible for purchasing or otherwise acquiring food for community feeding programs to ensure that those foods are grown, harvested or produced in New Jersey to the greatest extent practicable.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we stress the critical nature of the Governor and Legislature providing adequate funding for the State Food Purchase Program (SFPP) in the FY2012 budget at a level at least equal to the current funding, and that additional funding should be provided for storage and distribution of emergency food.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we direct the Department to work with New Jersey fruit and vegetable processing companies and the Rutgers Food Innovation Center to produce pre-packaged, value-added, single-serving New Jersey fruit and vegetable products, and other “Made With Jersey Fresh”” products, for use in school food service menus.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we urge the Governor and Legislature to include volunteer gleaning organizations among those who receive financial support in their efforts to feed the hungry.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we strongly support increased participation in the following safety-net federal and state nutrition programs administered by the Department: National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program; After School Snack Program; Special Milk Program; Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program; Child and Adult Care Food Program; Summer Food Service Program; School Commodity Program; The Emergency Food Assistance Program; The State Food Purchase Program; WIC and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program.
Hunger and Nutrition in New Jersey
There are approximately 500,000 children in New Jersey who qualify for free or reduced-price school meals and are therefore largely unable to obtain the food necessary for healthy nutrition. Research shows that in children, hunger not only attacks physical wellbeing, but also contributes to a loss of concentration, performance, intellectual growth and malnutrition. It is therefore essential that children from lower-income households participate in school meal programs to ensure that they receive the nutrition they need.
A new report released by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in November 2009 identifies New Jersey with the ninth largest increase in the nation in the number of households struggling with hunger – 11.5 percent of the state’s population from 2007 to 2009, an increase of 1.2 percent over 2006 – 2008’s number of 10.3 percent. (Household Food Security in the US, 2009)
New Jersey is one of only three states in which the state’s Department of Agriculture, not its Department of Education, administers all or part of the federal school meals programs (Texas’s agriculture department administers it in that state, and Florida’s agriculture department administers it in conjunction with that state’s education department.) This positions New Jersey well to link the healthy, nutritious foods produced by its agricultural community with students, both in items served in school food service and in classroom messages that encourage students to consume more fresh fruits and vegetables even when school is not in session.
There are 1.6 million New Jersey residents eligible to receive food assistance through the state’s emergency food distribution system, and 8.7 percent of the state’s population, including 12.3 percent of its children, lives in poverty. Ensuring that those people who cannot afford food can also share in New Jersey’s bounty is a major focus of the Division of Food and Nutrition. Not only does the Department seek to alleviate hunger, it strives to make sure those efforts benefit New Jersey’s farmers to the greatest extent possible through the State Food Purchase Program, which targets local growers and food producers as the sources of foods for feeding programs. This past year, the Department received an additional 2.65 million pounds of surplus commodities through The Emergency Feeding Assistance Program (TEFAP), which have supplemented food purchased by the state.
The Department will continue to work on building collaborative relationships with local producers to increase the purchase of fruits and vegetables in USDA’s domestic nutrition assistance programs including the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs, The Emergency Food Assistance Program and other commodity distribution programs.