FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 18, 2009
ESSEX COUNTY EXECUTIVE DIVINCENZO JOINS
WITH THE COMMUNITY FOODBANK, STOP & SHOP,
AND THE NEW JERSEY ANTI-HUNGER COALITION TO FIGHT HUNGER
County-Corporate-Community Partnership Raises Awareness about Food Stamps and Other Programs that are Available to Help Those in Need
Bloomfield, NJ - Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. joined with representatives from Stop & Shop supermarkets, the Community FoodBank of New Jersey and the New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition to highlight the growing problem of hunger in Essex County and New Jersey, and raise awareness about the Food Stamp program and other services that are available to help eligible clients. Held in front of the Bloomfield Stop & Shop on Friday, September 18th, the press conference coincides with September's designation as National Hunger Action Month.
"The economic crisis gripping our country has forced many families into difficult situations, and some are going hungry because they can no longer make ends meet. Many of our residents whose financial situations have changed may not realize that they are eligible for food stamp assistance," DiVincenzo said. "We are proud to join with the Community FoodBank and Stop & Shop to raise awareness about the growing issue of hunger and to let our residents know there are places to turn for help. Good nutrition is just as important to the health of our nation as a strong economy, and we want to make sure our residents receive the services they need," DiVincenzo said.
"Emergency pantries served by the Community FoodBank of New Jersey have seen an astounding 69% increase in the number of people seeking food assistance compared with 2 years ago, before the recession hit," said Kathleen DiChiara, Executive Director of the state's largest food bank. "This problem is too big for government alone or charity alone to solve. Through the combined efforts of the federal nutrition assistance programs like food stamps, county welfare offices, the Governor's State Food Purchase Program, and donations of food and funds from the private sector, we're all working together to make sure no one goes hungry," she added.
"We are very fortunate that the Federal Government, New Jersey and Essex County are here to help those in need," said Stop & Shop District Manger, Ron Beesmer. "The face of those in need in New Jersey has changed, many who used to take part in various charitable programs now find themselves in need. Stop & Shop hopes if you need help you will ask for it. Essex County is making it very easy today to sign up for the SNAP program. We are here to help, the County Executive is here to help, and hope that together we can help make the tough times you are experiencing a little bit easier," he added.
Also participating in the press conference were Cathie McCullough, Acting Regional Administrator of the USDA Food and Nutrition Service; Jennifer Velez, Commissioner of the NJ Department of Human Services; Ed Cier, Acting Coordinator of the NJ Department of Agriculture's Emergency Food Assistance Program; Anibal Ramos, Jr., Director of the Essex County Department of Citizen Services; and Paula Peikes, Human Services Supervisor with the Bloomfield Department of Health and Human Services.
One way that Essex County has been promoting enrollment in food stamps and other programs is through its Mobile Citizen Services Office. The mobile office has been dispatched to churches, festivals, community centers, food pantries, supermarkets and various other locations, and has enabled the County to interact with harder to reach populations. In addition, Essex has partnered with other counties throughout northern New Jersey to bring the mobile office to locations outside of the county. Essex is the only County in New Jersey that has a mobile office.
"Our mobile office has been effective in helping us reach different segments of our population and heighten awareness about available social service programs, including food stamps," said Essex County Division of Welfare Director Bruce Nigro. He noted that over the last 20 months, food stamp enrollment has increased 34 percent and there are now about 88,000 residents enrolled in the Food Stamp program.
The state-of-the-art vehicle is about the size of a bus and is outfitted with a waiting room and three private offices so clients can be served in a confidential and professional manner. The mobile office is equipped with a wireless internet connection and a fax machine so applications can be processed on site. It also is wheelchair accessible and has air conditioning.
Essex County purchased the mobile office in 2006 with grant funds from the Federal government to raise awareness about the Food Stamp program. On a yearly basis, the mobile office makes approximately 200 visit to various community sites including weekends and evening hours, and provides services to over 3,000 families and processes approximately 2,000 applications.
For more information about Food Stamps, residents can visit www.njfoodstamps.com or call 1-800-687-9512. They can apply for Food Stamps at their county welfare agency or can go to www.NJhelps.org to complete a pre-screening application to see if they are eligible for food stamps and other programs.