To fight hunger statewide, legislators allocated more money to food banks and created tax incentives to increase access to healthy eating in 50 state-designated food-dessert communities. And this year, they launched the nation’s first Office of Food Security Advocates.
Murphy appointed Mark Dinglasan, 42, former executive director of Paterson’s CUMAC, a non-profit organization to fight hunger, as executive director. WNYC reporter Karen Yi spoke to Dinglasan about her vision for the position and her plans for next year. Dialogue has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.
Mark, you have been in this position for three months. When Governor Murphy first appointed you, you said that ending hunger wasn’t about giving people food, it was about advocating for food security. , and how that affects your approach to this job, I’m curious.
If we’re talking about macro problems, the easiest thing we can do is create a macro solution, right?
A perfect example.there are a lot of hungry people [a given] A city in northern New Jersey. Get as much canned food as you can and cover that community. But for me I always had the following problem: I have a macro problem. How can I find out what is causing the problem? Do you want to create and pilot a community-driven solution that is not only scalable and sustainable? And is what you build replicable?
In this role, I think there is little need to write a new program. Karen, you have a really good program. The hardest part is how to establish connections and bring all the players you need to the table.
Do you think the establishment of this office is an important step for the country to start recognizing this idea, a more holistic and trauma-based approach to ending hunger?
of course. This is one of the broadest policy strokes I have ever seen in terms of policies to address food security. The main marching order is to move the needle on food security.
In the early days of the pandemic, food pantries were overflowing, and families who previously didn’t need assistance waited in line for hours for food. What long-term impact has the pandemic had on food insecurity in the state?
The immediate problems we were seeing had long-term consequences in terms of family financial security, childhood obesity and mental health. Because it’s not a line that goes around the corner and up the block and down the block.
But it’s still there. Families are still unable to catch their breath due to the effects of the pandemic. So there are rising food costs, transportation challenges, and access to support services.
How do you measure success?
There’s something that needs to be done immediately to say, “OK, are we succeeding?” The first is building small, agile teams that can work across departments. How do you say it works well across departments? It was these small projects and programs that I mentioned to you that my small, agile team worked on with those programs. If we can help get the project off the ground, we are successful in the short term.
and long-term results. Can we create and build self-efficacy and agency in the communities we serve based on the short-term and medium-term successes we work for? An increase in is a great metric, but we can’t claim a larger, stronger long-term result at this point as we have to work towards it, but here it is: Today, “I decide where to buy food? Can I go to work today without worrying about rent?” Have we created financial liquidity, financial security for the institution? Do you believe the community has control over their decisions and their consequences?
The budget for this office is $1 million. What new initiatives can you tell us about next year and what the food-insecure people can expect?
I’m personally dedicated to helping parents find agencies and programs they find on Google through the platform they say “I need help with”. Insecure people reach out to know that this office exists and our standards treat people like people, empower communities and build agency.
And when people come to us for help, they say, “I see you, I hear you. How can we help?”
The pandemic has taught us that we are capable, that we can think outside the box, that we can transform our programs, and that we are informed about trauma. I think for us it’s about holding each other accountable and saying: Can you be consistent about that? ”
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