The College was host, if only briefly, to New Jersey Democratic Congressmen Rush Holt and Frank Pallone for the Statewide Anti-Hunger Coalition’s congressional round-table on hunger.
Unfortunately, Holt had to leave to attend another meeting after spending only 30 minutes listening to the round-table, which was from 7 p.m. until 8:30 p.m.
“We kept him about 10 minutes past his deadline,” Rev. Bruce Davidson, who moderated the discussion, said.
Pallone spoke and took questions at the meeting. Representatives of Republican Congressmen Mike Ferguson and Christopher Smith were also present.
The congressmen were invited partly in response to the recently elected democratic majority in Congress.
“I’m trying not to be too partisan tonight, but I do believe that with the new Congress, there’s going to be an opportunity to address these issues,” Pallone said.
“There are wonderful opportunities this year . to (allocate) federal funds to the state of New Jersey,” Ellen Teller of the Food Research and Action Center said.
Adela LaTourette, director of the Statewide Emergency Food and Anti-Hunger Network, included statistics on the deficiencies of New Jersey’s federal nutrition programs, particularly the food stamp program, in her presentation.
“We are doing terribly in the food stamp program,” she said.Only 38 percent of the state’s working people are served by New Jersey’s program, while Pennsylvania’s program serves 55 percent.
“We want to make sure that all those who are eligible receive the food stamps program,” Teller said.
She also highlighted the underutilization of the School Breakfast and the Summer Food Programs. New Jersey’s government currently mandates that any school in which 20 percent or more of its children are eligible for free or reduced price lunches offer a breakfast program.
“It’s a good mandate, but if you don’t make the program accessible, the kids are still not going to eat breakfast,” LaTourette said. “The best way to feed the kids is in the classroom and after the bell.”
Teller urged the audience, made up of representatives from charitable food pantries across the state, to utilize these programs. “If you feed them, they will come,” she said.
The audience also heard from clients of food pantries.
“If we can get help through (Pallone) and through other people, a lot of people don’t have to go hungry,” Eda Singleton of Paterson said.
“There’s a lot of poor and the lines are getting bigger and bigger all the time,” Anna Mondelo, also of Paterson, said.
“The new Congress will look at all this and, I believe, will try to boost funding for all these problems,” he said. “I do think a lot more needs to be done.”
Pallone also pointed out New Jersey’s unique position as the wealthiest state in the country.
“Increasingly what we’re seeing in the state is people can’t afford to live here,” Pallone said.
“My hope is that the people who are here from the campus will go out and tell people what they heard,” he said. “Even (Pallone) said he didn’t know the depth of the problem.”
“There are a lot of problems; there are also a lot of remedies,” LaTourette said. “It’s not an insurmountable problem. It’s a problem we have to choose to surmount.”