Early this week, New Jersey's Christie Administration announced that two organizations will share more than $73,000 in grants, made possible through the Ag Department's Food Purchase Program and Gleaning Support Program. The funds will expand distribution of fresh, New Jersey produce to two emergency feeding agencies.
The New Jersey Agricultural Society's Farmers Against Hunger will receive $66,277 and Grow It Green Morristown will receive $7,112. "Gleaning operations complement our existing emergency feeding programs by providing our state's neediest citizens with fresh fruits and vegetables from our Garden State farmers," explains New Jersey Ag Secretary Douglas Fisher. "This grant funding will help the two organizations step up their efforts next growing season to provide even more produce to our state's food banks, food pantries, soup kitchens, homeless shelters and other agencies that feed the needy."
The Gleaning Support Program grants must be used by the gleaning organizations for collection, distribution and administrative costs. The groups must distribute the gleaned New Jersey grown produce or non-farm nutrient-dense rescued foods gleaned from non-farm sources outside of the growing season only to New Jersey residents.
The funding will be distributed quarterly to the state's six food banks to purchase nutrient-dense foods with a high priority on buying locally grown produce from New Jersey farmers.
Farmers Against Hunger serves 7,000 people weekly during the growing season through 60 organizations, including soup kitchens, food pantries and the state's food banks. Farmers from all over the state participate by donating their surplus produce or allowing volunteers to come onto their farms and glean – or, pick, excess produce. In 2011, they received about 1.5 million pounds of fruits and vegetables from farmers, food retailers and distributors.
"The gleaning grant will provide us with a huge amount of what we need to operate," responds Kristina Guttadora, FAH produce collection and distribution coordinator. "It will help us increase the amount of gleanings we can do during the season and expand the number of people we're able to bring healthy food to."
Grow It Green Morristown operates The Urban Farm at Lafayette in Morristown on land owned by the Morris School District. In both of the years it has operated, the organization has donated more than 2,000 pounds of fresh produce grown on the farm to local organizations, such as soup kitchens, food pantries and schools.
"Through the Head Start program, we promote making healthier food choices," said Merilee Rutolo, Head Start Director. "A partnership with Farmers Against Hunger provides us with the resources to incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables in daily meals, and, providing children and families with accessibility to fresh produce is an effective way to encourage healthy family eating."
For more information on the Department of Agriculture's State Food Purchase Program, visit: www.nj.gov/agriculture/divisions/fn/fooddistrib/foodpurchaseprogram.html.