By Carol Peters
Rutgers University Faculty members and students have contributed to two recent reports that provide recommendations to help to help state and local governments, schools, childcare providers, community-based and faith-based organizations, emergency food providers, and others, to help mitigate hunger across the state.
More must be done to alleviate food insecurity in New Jersey, argues a new report, Hunger and Its Solutions in New Jersey: Landscape Analysis of Current Initiatives, Recommended Action, and Emerging Opportunities for Further Investment that evaluates food insecurity in New Jersey and proposes recommendations to eliminate hunger across the state. The report was released May 23, 2022 by the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC), based in Washington, DC.
While New Jersey may be nicknamed the “The Garden State”, the group’s research findings show that in 2020 alone, during the COVID-19 pandemic, 285,000 households in the state did not have reliable access to affordable, nutritious food.
Several experts from the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, Rutgers University-New Brunswick, contributed to the report, including Cara Cuite, Sara Elnakib, Joan Healy, and EOAS faculty member Jeanne Herb.
“Hunger and Its Solutions in New Jersey highlights how diverse community organizations pivoted to diligently address hunger during the pandemic, providing food and connections to services and support; and state agencies fully maximized federal waivers, shifting services and expanding benefits to help mitigate food insecurity. The Department of Family and Community Sciences, which ‘…promotes health and wellness through education, research, and collaboration, and supporting food policy councils and community work,’ is ‘spotlighted’ as a key influencer,” Healy wrote in an email to the SEBS community.
Some of the report’s additional findings and recommendations to help state and local governments, schools, childcare providers, community-based and faith-based organizations, emergency food providers, and others, to help mitigate hunger, include:
- Expanding outreach to community members on available food resources and federal nutrition programs, and enhancing coordination between food system stakeholders, such as residents, state agencies, nutrition program operators, and farmers;
- Maximizing equitable food purchasing power and procurement systems, for example, by strengthening local food access in federal nutrition programs and public purchasing, and supporting food-focused community development to address root causes of hunger;
- Building infrastructure and capacity needed to make the most of existing and emerging policy and program opportunities and leveraging American Rescue Plan funding and new funding streams to invest in technology systems to streamline access to food and federal nutrition programs.
Herb and Rutgers Climate Institute Co-Director Marjorie Kaplan also contributed to the report “Advancing the New Jersey Sustainable Organic Material Management Plan: Opportunities to Increase Food Security and Reduce New Jersey’s Organic Waste,” that is connected to the FRAC report because it looks at strategies to reduce organic (food) waste that creates methane in landfills while also contributing to addressing food insecurity.
Three Rutgers University students, Abigail Brown, Anna Heckler, and Tracy Youngster led the work for this report. Heckler and Brown are students at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, and Youngster is a student at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, and an alumna of the Coastal Climate Risk and Resilience (C2R2). Initiative. Their research received support by the NJ Climate Change Resource Center housed at Rutgers and the New Jersey State Policy Lab housed at Bloustein.