Home > News > Press Releases > 2008 > AGRICULTURE SECRETARY, FOOD PANTRY VOLUNTEERS, FARMER TEAM UP TO HELP THE HUNGRY
AGRICULTURE SECRETARY, FOOD PANTRY VOLUNTEERS, FARMER TEAM UP TO HELP THE HUNGRY
Contact: Lynne Richmond
(DENVILLE) – New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Charles M. Kuperus and a group of volunteers from the Interfaith Food Pantry in Morristown gathered boxes of vegetables today at Union Hill Farms in Denville that will be distributed to clients of the food pantry.
Such an effort is referred to as a “gleaning,” which redirects surplus food items donated by local farms to feed the hungry of New Jersey. The Interfaith Food Pantry works with several local farmers – including Jeff O’Hara of Union Hill Farms -- to either pick the produce themselves or collect and transport the donated items to distribution points.
“Fresh vegetables are an important part of any diet and should be available to all, including those in need of help at local food pantries throughout the state,” said Secretary Kuperus. “We are proud of the many farmers throughout the state who generously donate some of their produce to the hungry to ensure they have access to these nutritious items.”
In total, Interfaith Food Pantry received 6,300 pounds of fresh produce from July of 2007 to July of 2008 from local farms, more than half of which came from Union Hill Farms. The other farms that donated food were Riamede, Parks and Alstede Farms, all in Chester, Three Meadows Farm in Bedminster and Morangie Farm in Far Hills.
“The produce we receive from the farms is very much appreciated by our clients,” said Katy Galton, part-time Nutrition Educator for the Interfaith Food Pantry. “Many low-income citizens who rely on the food pantry for supplemental food often must make the difficult choice between quality and quantity when it comes to feeding their families. The fresh produce we have received from this program has given our clients access to healthier foods they might otherwise not have had.”
Union Hill Farms has been a regular contributor of produce to the pantry for the past six years and also has donated to the Morristown Soup Kitchen for many years. O’Hara, who started his farm in 1986 and now grows 35 acres of assorted vegetables and participates in three community farmers markets as well as running his own roadside stand, said it is important to give back to the community that has supported his business.
“The people who buy at my stand regularly are all local residents, so without the community we would have nothing,” said O’Hara. “We hate to see anything we grow go to waste. The pantry comes to us, picks up the surplus items and it helps others.”
Interfaith Food Pantry was one of three organizations in the state in March that received a grant through the New Jersey Department of Agriculture State Food Purchase Program – Gleaning Support Program for collection, distribution, and administrative costs to support gleaning efforts. The $5,494 was used to pay transportation costs for the gleaned produce.
Besides its gleaning operation, Interfaith Food Pantry participates in the State Food Purchase Program (SFPP), developed under Governor Jon S. Corzine’s Hunger Initiative. The program will distribute $4 million this year to emergency feeding operations to buy nutritious foods for the hungry. Interfaith, a non-profit that serves more than 3,700 qualifying Morris County residents, distributed more than 53,000 pounds of SFPP food this past year.
Emma Davis-Kovacs, Director of the Department of Agriculture’s Division of Food and Nutrition, said the SFPP will be even more vital this year than in the past, due to the shaky economy.
“Our emergency feeding operations in the state are reporting an increase in participation, while at the same time there has been an increase in students eligible for the free and reduced price lunch program,” said Davis-Kovacs. “In addition, with less United States Department of Agriculture-donated items coming in to the state, Governor Corzine’s Hunger Initiative funding will help emergency feeding operations meet the needs of their growing clientele.”
SFPP funds are distributed to the six emergency feeding operations in the state on a quarterly basis. The next distribution is scheduled for November.