More than 919,000 New Jersey residents struggle with a lack of access to affordable, healthy food, and last week the Assembly passed a number of bills aimed at tackling the issue from several angles — food deserts in poor areas, hunger on college campuses, food waste and more.

Each bill still requires Senate approval and a signature from Gov. Phil Murphy, but they represent a big, bipartisan swing at a growing issue.

“One in nine residents in the state is food insecure and, in New Jersey, 41 cities can be classified as ‘food deserts,’” said Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex, who sponsored some of the bills. “To fight hunger effectively, we must address all possible sources of food insecurities for New Jersey families.”

All four counties in The Press of Atlantic City’s coverage area — Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland and Ocean — have some of the highest rates in the state of children who lack access to healthy and nutritious foods, both in quality and quantity, according to the Feeding America organization.

One bill, the Food Desert Elimination Act, would push the New Jersey Economic Development Authority to designate many areas as food deserts — towns and cities with sparse access to fresh food — and then offer tax credit incentives to get supermarkets to open locations there.

The Hunger-Free Campus Act would require the state’s secretary of higher education to parcel out $1 million among designated schools to, among other goals, open food pantries on campus and allow students to use SNAP benefits at campus stores.

One act would establish a pilot program to establish weekly markets in three identified food deserts that would sell produce at reduced prices and accept SNAP benefits. Markets would be required to donate surplus produce.

And another act would require the Department of Human Services to develop an online portal to facilitate collaboration and efficiency in use of surplus food among retailers, nonprofits and gleaners, who collect excess food from various sources.

Contact: 609-272-7260 cshaw@pressofac.com @ACPressColtShaw

Staff Writer

I cover breaking news on the digital desk. I graduated from Temple University in Dec. 2017 and joined the Press in the fall of 2018. Previously, I freelanced, covering Pennsylvania state politics and criminal justice reform.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.

PLEASE BE ADVISED: Soon we will no longer integrate with Facebook for story comments. The commenting option is not going away, however, readers will need to register for a FREE site account to continue sharing their thoughts and feedback on stories. If you already have an account (i.e. current subscribers, posting in obituary guestbooks, for submitting community events), you may use that login, otherwise, you will be prompted to create a new account.

Load comments