(TRENTON) – In an effort to make emergency food programs easily accessible to New Jersey residents, legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Yvonne Lopez, Jamel Holley and James Kennedy that would establish an “Anti-Hunger Link” on the official website of every state executive department was approved Monday by the Assembly by a 79-0 vote.

The bill (A-4703) states that the link would direct website users to a dedicated internet page that lists all of the emergency food programs in the state, including but not limited to: emergency meal providers, food pantries, soup kitchens, child and senior feeding programs, and faith-based anti-hunger initiatives along with several other food programs.

“1 million New Jersey residents go to bed hungry,” said Lopez (D-Middlesex). “Many of whom do not have the means or are simply unaware of the various programs, food providers and anti-hunger initiatives our state has to offer. By adding an ‘Anti-Hunger Link’ to multiple state websites, we hope to raise awareness and reach those in need of food assistance in an effort to create a completely hunger-free state.”

Under the bill, the Chief Technology Officer of the Office of Information Technology, in consultation with the Commissioner of Human Services and the Secretary of Agriculture, a nonprofit organization may maintain and update the “Anti-Hunger Link” and emergency food program website.

“With the way some of our state websites are currently laid out, it could be difficult for users to navigate and register for food insecurity programs,” said Holley (D-Union). “By making this link a prominent, relevant feature on our websites, it will limit the challenges and sometimes even stresses that many hungry residents experience when trying to learn more about and apply for food programs.”

“The goal of this bill is to significantly decrease the time and energy our residents spend in order to access food,” said Kennedy (D-Middlesex/Somerset/Union). “With just one click on a website, those who are in need will be taken to a list of food programs along with ample information to either gain access to food or apply for various programs.”

This measure is part of a 14-bill package recently approved by the Assembly Human Services Committee and cleared by the Assembly Appropriations Committee on December 10.

The bill now goes to the Senate for further consideration.