WAYNE - Lawmakers in New Jersey could soon end a prohibition on food and beverages in funeral homes.
Assemblywoman Nancy Pinkin is sponsoring a bill that would update a variety of funeral practices in the state. Under the measure, the food prohibition would be taken off the books so refreshments could be served or catered for friends and family of the deceased.
The state is among a handful that forbids refreshments at funeral homes. The legislation comes after New York officials decided to repeal their law prohibiting food.
Vander May Wayne Colonial Funeral Home Director Cliff Vander May says he supports the change and says that a food station would be set up separate from the service area.
"I think most funeral homes you're going to see, you're going to offer a cup of coffee, maybe a drink and some food. Just that quiet dignity is what we're trying to help a family with,” he says.
Vander May says that the current trend sees people holding wakes in four-hour blocks, which sometimes goes straight through dinner time.
"Perhaps someone is diabetic, maybe needs a little something. It would be against the law for us to provide something,” Vander May says
But Louis Stellato Jr., president of several northern New Jersey funeral homes, worries that accommodating food would distract funeral directors from celebrating life.
"Our job is to memorialize the dead and to recognize that a life has been lived,” he says. "If eventually food becomes important, then it's important. But right now, I don't see food as an integral cog in the grieving process."
The law was originally put into place due to sanitary concerns.
The Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.