Specialty Crop Block Grants -- New Jersey will receive a $792,245 United States Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant for 20 initiatives to benefit Garden State crops such as fruits, vegetables, horticulture and nursery. The New Jersey Department of Agriculture will use a portion of the funding for Jersey Fresh promotion and will partner with a variety of organizations on food safety, industry promotion, public awareness and training projects. Most of New Jersey agriculture falls into the specialty crop category. Specialty crops account for $832.7 million in sales annually in the Garden State.
Hunger Funding – New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Lori Grifa, Secretary Fisher and Human Services Commissioner Jennifer Velez on October 24 visited the Mercer Street Friends Food Bank in Ewing to announce a collaborative commitment that provided five major food banks in the state with Jersey Fresh fruits and vegetables for the families and organizations they assist. More than $147,000 in federal funding is being directed to the effort. The funding for Community FoodBank of NJ in Hillside, Foodbank of South Jersey in Pennsauken, FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean County in Neptune, NORWESCAP in Phillipsburg and Mercer Street Friends was made available through the DCA Division of Housing and Community Resources’ administration of the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG), a federal, anti-poverty block grant which funds the operations of a state-administered network of local agencies. Five percent of the state’s allocation was reserved for state priorities and special initiatives determined by the DCA Commissioner. The focus on food banks addresses the nutrition component of the CSBG program. Through this program, the food banks purchased thousands of pounds of New Jersey produce from state farmers and distributed them to their local agencies for distribution to those in need.
Equine Diseases – New Jersey had its first cases of West Nile Virus (WNV) and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) in horses in October. A 3-year-old horse from Gloucester County was euthanized on October 20 after contracting EEE, a serious, mosquito-borne illness in horses. Earlier this month, the first case of WNV in a horse was reported in Monmouth County. The 11-year-old mare was treated for the disease. Neither animal had been vaccinated for the diseases they contracted. Horse owners are advised to contact their veterinarians now if their horses are not already up-to-date on their vaccinations against both EEE and West Nile virus. EEE causes inflammation of the brain tissue and has a significantly higher risk of death in horses than West Nile Virus infection. West Nile virus is a viral disease that affects horses’ neurological systems. Horses contract the virus when infected mosquitoes bite them. The diseases cannot be spread from horse to horse or from an infected horse to humans or domestic pets. The Department of Environmental Protection is reporting an increase in the state’s mosquito population due to exceedingly high levels of precipitation experienced statewide due to Hurricane Irene and subsequent rainstorms.
Hurricane Irene Outreach Efforts – As Hurricane Irene approached New Jersey, the Department embarked on an outreach program that included e-mails, faxes, the NJDA website and NJDA Facebook page. Through these venues, the Department highlighted resources available on the NJDA website to assist those impacted by the storm. In August, the Plain Talk on Protecting Pets in emergencies electronic brochure received 5,223 “hits,” a significantly larger number than in previous months or last year. In September, the Hurricane Irene Information web page received 406 “hits.” And, the Animal Emergency Trailers press release got 814 hits.
Fall Farmers Markets -- Secretary Fisher visited the bustling Newark Downtown District Common Greens Farmers Market on October 20 to talk about the vital need for access to farm fresh produce in New Jersey’s downtown areas and the availability of programs that assist qualifying residents in purchasing Jersey Fresh fruits and vegetables. There were 148 community farmers markets operating in New Jersey this season. Many remain open through the end of October and some operate into November. These markets feature Garden State farmers who sell produce they’ve picked at the peak of ripeness within 24 hours of sale to ensure the best taste and highest quality. Many accept vouchers from the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program and WIC (Woman Infant and Children) Farmers Market Nutrition Program administered by the Department of Health and Senior Services. Fisher was joined by Department of Health and Senior Services Assistant Commissioner Gloria Rodriguez. The two departments are working together to increase participation in these federally-funded programs.
National School Lunch Week – In commemoration of National School Lunch Week, Secretary Fisher, USDA’s Mid Atlantic Special Nutrition Programs Director Jim Harmon and NJDA Division of Food and Nutrition Director Rose Tricario sat down October 12 with 17 students at Hunterdon Central Regional High School in Flemington to get the students’ thoughts on the lunch program at their school. In general, they found the students valued the many healthy options available and were pleased with the lunch program overall. The High School has a fresh cut fruit bar and a salad bar. Their food service provider incorporates whole grains into its meals and uses low sodium lunch meats and cheeses. Entrees are baked, not fried, and anything that is fried is done so in trans-fat-free oil. The National School Lunch Program is initiated through the USDA and administered in New Jersey the state Department of Agriculture. When a school participates in the program, it must serve lunches that meet federal nutrition requirements. New Jersey instituted its own stringent nutrition policy several years ago
Jets Eat Right, Move More – New York Jets offensive tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson and the Department visited Nicolaus Copernicus P.S. #25 in Jersey City on October 4 and on October 11, Jets kicker Nick Folk visited Haledon Public School in Haledon to congratulate the schools for their achievements in nutrition and physical fitness education. The schools were winners of the 2010-2011 Eat Right, Move More program, a partnership between the Jets, the Department of Agriculture and the American Dairy Association & Dairy Council’s Fuel Up to Play 60 campaign. Eat Right, Move More encourages New Jersey school children to take advantage of healthy foods in their school cafeterias and become more active.
National FFA Convention – More than 140 New Jersey representatives from 12 chapters and the State FFA Association attended the 84th National FFA Convention October 19-22 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Ten students received the American FFA Degree and four New Jersey residents received the Honorary FFA Degree --
Crop Insurance – The Department and Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Salem County have been awarded a $282,000 competitive crop insurance education grant.