Food Council PAC honors business, government leaders

Four business and government leaders who are making an impact on the state’s food industry were honored recently by the political action committee of the New Jersey Food Council.

The annual event was sponsored by the Food Council Committee for Good Government, the Food Council’s nonprofit PAC 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.

Linda Doherty, CEO of the Food Council and treasurer of the FCCfGG, said recognizing leaders is more important than ever due to the fast-changing nature of the sector.

“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,” she said.

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

“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 (Gov. Phil) 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.

The following were saluted:

Good Government Award

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

De Palma manages public events, media-related inquiries, 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.

Thomas W. Kelly Government Services Award

Melanie Willoughby, executive director, New Jersey Business Action Center. Willoughby earned the 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. Willoughby is heavily involved in the New Jersey Clean Communities Council’s Bag Up NJ campaign, serving as a trusted resource for the state’s business community as it prepares to comply with the impending enforcement of the bag ban legislation.

Outstanding Legislator Award

State Sen. Kristin Corrado (R-Totowa), the Republican Conference leader in the state Senate, 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.

Outstanding Legislator Award

Assemblyman John McKeon (D-Madison) was described as 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 has also been a leader in the Bag Up NJ movement, a key lawmaker who was instrumental in the passage of the bag ban law.