Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin has announced a series of initiatives to combat hunger in New Jersey.

Coughlin said hunger in this very affluent state is still a large problem: "iI is everywhere, and it is abundant, even in this very wealthy state."

"About one in every 8 New Jerseyans goes to bed hungry — 800,000 people, for example, receive SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) assistance, which is a food program to do that," he said, "More children than ought to go home hungry, all the time. The nutrition and the nourishment of food they get is through school-funded programs, which is a real challenge when you get to weekends and particularly the summer."

Coughlin said even though there are food pantries throughout the state and lots of people eager top be involved, "it still seems a little disparate to me."

Coughlin and other Democrats in the Assembly want to improve school nutrition programs, establish an anti-hunger program on college campuses and attract food markets to urban areas.

Among the series of initiatives: "Establish a link, so that people can find the food pantries in their area."

He also wants to establish a liaison between the state Department of Agriculture and farmers that may be able to help the hungry.

"I was touring the Community Food Bank in Hillside, in order to bring some attention to this issue. I got to meet the folks there. And they told me that most of the food, most of the grocery stores give them food," he said. "And they also get food through the FDA programs and things like that. But that would be one of the ways that we are going to look through legislation to do it."

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