More than a year after it was proposed, New Jersey now has someone to lead efforts to fight hunger on the state level.
Gov. Phil Murphy announced Thursday that Mark Dinglasan will be director of the Office of the Food Security Advocate. Dinglasan is currently executive director of Center of United Methodist Aid to the Community, or CUMAC, in Passaic County.
Dinglasan has been with CUMAC since 2017. His path to the North Jersey nonprofit began as a lay mission worker in the poorest parts of the Philippines, according to the Paterson Press. That was followed by a stint in Chicago advocating for juveniles in the criminal justice system.
He has been called “charismatic” by the editorial board of the Star-Ledger, which noted Dinglasan’s efforts to find fresh produce and meat to distribute during the early days of the pandemic. That was after he starts the day taking the temperature of his 22 employees, handing out their masks and then “tells them he loves them.”
In a news release, the governor’s office wrote that Dinglasan led CUMAC “through a holistic, trauma-informed approach that provides groceries and basic necessities to families and individuals in need.”
“I am confident that under Mark’s leadership, we will make great strides in our ongoing commitment to end food insecurity by strengthening food assistance and providing support to communities across the state,” said Murphy.
Dinglasan, a native of Livingston, New Jersey, holds a degree in criminal justice from Monmouth University and an MBA from DePaul University.
The legislature unanimously passed a bill creating the Office of the Food Insecurity Advocate last summer. The office is the first of its kind in the country to be created. The governor signed it into law along with other bills to address hunger. The office was subsequently renamed earlier this year.
Creation of the office comes as food banks across the state have seen an elevated demand for services through the first year of the pandemic. Demand has not slowed since then, with many food pantry officials saying they don’t expect the demand to slow down anytime soon.
Greg Loder, director of marketing and advocacy at the Food Bank of South Jersey, said they continue to serve “at levels that are pretty much similar to the pandemic.”
“Those levels have, in the last 3-4 months…been very high due to people coming for assistance…because of the high prices that they face,” he said.
Loder has called the new office “a real positive” that will bring together state agencies to take on food insecurity.
“It’s going to help all of us coordinate our resources, all the food banks in the state and every other organization that is focused on these issues to work together with them, to really address the needs of food insecurity and how we can reduce that in the state of New Jersey,” he said.
Saturdays just got more interesting.