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New Jersey Food Industry Honors Business, Government Leaders

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Pictured are, from left, NJFC Incoming Board Chair Andrew Kent of Glass Gardens Inc., Amanda De Palma of Saker ShopRites, Senator Kristin Corrado (R-40), Assemblyman John McKeon (D-27), NJBAC Executive Director Melanie Willoughby, FCCfGG Board Chairman Richard Saker of Saker ShopRites and FCCfGG Treasurer Linda Doherty.

There was no shortage of pressing topics at the Food Council Committee for Good Government’s (FCCfGG ) 47th Annual Good Government Presentation held Oct. 21 on a virtual platform. The event featured Democrat Gov. Phil Murphy and Republican gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli who shared their political platform as they compete in this year’s state election.

Additionally, lawmakers and food industry leaders discussed key consumer and business issues and honored industry professionals and policy makers during the event presentations. FCCfGG flipped the format from a traditional breakfast to a virtual lunch presentation as food distribution companies and grocers face unprecedented supply chain strains and labor shortages.

Attendees were updated about the statewide roll-out of the “Bag Up NJ” campaign, developed by the New Jersey Food Council and the New Jersey Clean Communities Council. This new state law, to be enforced in May 2022, bans plastic and paper shopping bags that are often discarded after a single use and encourages consumers to bring their own reusable bags to shop.

The annual event was sponsored by the FCCfGG, New Jersey Food Council’s non-profit political action committee formed in 1973 that aids and promotes the election of state lawmakers who support the priorities of food retailers. To date, the committee has supported more than 4,000 candidates for office in New Jersey.

“This event is a celebration of the good government process and our commitment to working with government officials and business community leaders on sound public policies which affect one of New Jersey’s largest and essential industries –food retail and distribution,” said Linda Doherty, FCCfGG treasurer, as well as president and CEO of the NJFC.

With the new challenges presented by a COVID world, it is so important to build alliances with New Jersey legislative leaders, policy makers, political candidates and opinion makers to support pro-business initiatives, Doherty added.

“Today, having grappled with this global pandemic, we are more resilient,” she said. “While we still face lasting challenges because of COVID-19, our relationships with members of the Murphy administration and legislature in Trenton strengthened during the pandemic. New Jerseyans depend on our members as an essential business, and for their generous charitable giving and support of foodbanks and civic groups, and community assistance during these uncertain times.”

As the state closes out this legislative cycle in early 2022, several priority issues remain, including legislation pertaining to recycled content, liquor licensing reform, and labor challenges.

“We will work with decision makers to support our positions on our legislative priorities on behalf of the membership,” Doherty said.


Awards presented

Attendees saluted four honorees in business and government who are making an impact in the state’s food industry. They include:

Amanda De Palma, director of public relations and government affairs for Saker ShopRites received the “Good Government Award,” the highest honor received by food industry members who actively participate in advocacy efforts for policies that help New Jersey’s food industry thrive.

Richard Saker, chairman, president and CEO of Saker ShopRite, presented the award to De Palma, who manages public events, press-related inquires, communication with elected officials and local leaders, as well as all policy-related social media messaging for Saker ShopRites. Most notably, earlier this year she helped manage the quick operational expansion of the COVID-19 vaccination clinics across 30 in-store pharmacies.

Melanie Willoughby, executive director of the New Jersey Business Action Center, earned the Thomas W. Kelly Government Service Award for her work with state and local levels of government as an advocate for businesses of all sizes.

Willoughby’s personal motto – “I’m from state government and I’m here to help” – reflects her commitment to aiding New Jersey business owners. She is heavily involved in NJCCC’s Bag Up NJ campaign, serving as a resource for the state’s business community as it prepares to comply with the impending enforcement of the bag ban legislation.

“We applaud Melanie’s approach to sound public policy that benefits state residents, businesses large and small, and government leaders at all levels,” Doherty said. “Melanie’s depth of knowledge to understand and fully grasp the industries in which she represents and her passionate desire to advocate on behalf of the New Jersey business community is a true testament as to why she deserves this prestigious government service honor.”

State Sen. Kristin Corrado (R-40th Dist.) was presented the “Outstanding Legislator Award.” Serving as the Republican conference leader in the State Senate, Corrado is a member of the Judiciary Committee, the Environment and Energy Committee, the Commerce Committee and the Select Committee on New Jersey Transit. A small business owner, the senator is a partner in the law firm of Corrado & Corrado with her father, Robert E. Corrado. She represented the Borough of Totowa as municipal attorney for 10 years before serving as Passaic County Clerk for seven years.

“It is vital for our industry to work with lawmakers who are willing to consider our views to support a strong state economy and create job growth,” said Andrew Kent, EVP of Glass Gardens ShopRite and NJFC vice chair. “Senator Corrado has remained open minded on many issues affecting the food industry and business community and is a thoughtful and knowledgeable legislator who is focused on serving the people of New Jersey.  Putting people before politics is one of the many reasons we are proud to present this award to the senator.”

Assemblyman John McKeon (D-27th Dist.) received the “Outstanding Legislator Award” for being one of the state’s leading legislative advocates for protecting New Jersey’s environment while balancing the needs of the food industry.

The Assemblyman serves as chairman of the Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee, and is a member of the Budget Committee, and the Environment and Solid Waste Committee. He has strengthened New Jersey’s nationally renowned recycling programs by sponsoring the Recycling Enhancement Act and pushing the passage of the strongest electronic waste recycling bill in the nation. He also been a leader in the Bag Up NJ movement; a key lawmaker who was instrumental in the passage of the bag ban law.

“We are grateful for Assemblyman McKeon and his eloquent representation of the Food Council’s position on the floor of the New Jersey General Assembly when the Plastic Bag Ban bill was debated,” Kent said. “His persistent and articulate perspective helped push the deciding favorable vote. And today, his action will propel New Jersey with the strongest plastic and paper bag ban in the country.”

The FCCfGG is governed by a board of governors and officers, which includes Saker as chair, Phil Scaduto of FoodCircus Foodtown as vice chair, Suzanne DelVecchio of Quick Chek as secretary and Doherty as Treasurer.

The FCCfGG was formed in 1973 with the support of the New Jersey Food Council to aid those responsible elected state officials and candidates who share a common objective for good government.

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