Twelve Percent in NJ Can’t Afford Nutritious Food [AUDIO]
About one in eight New Jersey households can't afford to buy enough nutritious food according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. To raise awareness of the number of those struggling to eat, food banks throughout New Jersey will participate in National Hunger Action Month.
According to The FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties (FMOC), the number of people seeking food assistance has grown steadily prior to Superstorm Sandy due to the state's high unemployment.
"You know before Superstorm Sandy we were already seeing one and ten residents, over 127,000 people, 51,000 of which are children and since the storm, we know our distribution has gone up well over 20 percent," said Carlos Rodriguez, executive director of FMOC.
Rodriguez said Hunger Action Month is an annual Feeding America campaign, an organization that represents 200 food banks throughout the country. He said it's geared toward mobilizing as many people as possible to take action and make a difference to help families in their local communities. This year's theme is "Together We Can Solve Hunger."
As part of the campaign, the FMOC has a full slate of events planned throughout the month of September, including a major fundraiser with chefs volunteering from area restaurants. The documentary A Place at the Table will be screened at the Count Bassie Theater in Red Bank.
Schools around the state will also be holding competition food collection drives.
On the state level, funding continues for the State Food Purchase Program to provide Jersey Fresh produce to area food banks. In addition, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture plans to increase its participation in the School Breakfast Program, which aims to provide needy children with breakfast. There will also be a carnival as well as a municipal food drive in Neptune Township.
Monmouth County State Assemblywoman Carolyn Cassagrande said anyone can participate in Hunger Action Month. "Take a moment, do what you can. Go get a gift card from your supermarket. Go pickup something extra on your grocery run and we're all in this together and I think it's a good time to stock those food banks."
At a press conference on Wednesday in Neptune, the Monmouth County Board of Freeholders presented a certificate recognizing September as Hunger Action Month. a The FMOC also cut the ribbon on its new garden donated and planted by volunteers from Lowes Home Improvement stores.
Monmouth County Freeholder Director Thomas Arnone told the gathering that while September is Hunger Action Month we have to remember that there are 11 other months. "We have to remember that it's a long year. It's a cold year we have to continue to be here and support this cause."
During the fiscal year that ended in June, the FMOC served over 1 million meals and distributed 8.5 million pounds of food, 1.3 million more than the year before, according to Rodriguez.