A new report from the Food Research & Action Center finds New Jersey families with children struggle to feed their kids more so than families in most other states.

The report, How Hungry is America?, found that 16 percent of New Jersey households with children faced hunger, compared to 11.5 percent of households without children. New Jersey was one of the 15 worst states in the nation for its high ratio of hunger in households with children compared to childless households.

“This report underscores the need to strengthen our child nutrition programs, including school breakfast, summer meals and afterschool meals, as well as well protect food aid through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program,” said Adele LaTourette, director, New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition.

“These federally-funded programs provide dollars to feed our hungry children and other struggling residents,” she added. “Every community in the state should capitalize on them.”

LaTourette noted that new state legislation requiring high-poverty schools and districts to serve breakfast during the normal school day and to participate in the federal Summer Food Service Program promises to reduce hunger among New Jersey children.

“We look forward to working with schools across New Jersey to ensure successful implementation of these important measures so that no child begins school with an empty stomach or goes to bed hungry,” she said.

The report also comes as Congress is trying to reconcile a “Farm Bill” to work out differences between two versions of this federal legislation, which sets policies and funding for both farm-related issues and SNAP, also known as food stamps. The House version would make deep cuts to SNAP, which in April 2018 provided food to more than 743,000 New Jersey residents, including about 353,000 children. The Senate version protects and strengthens SNAP.

“We continue to work with our Congressional representatives and to mobilize our grassroots networks to fight efforts to shred this critical food safety net,” LaTourette said. “Our hope is that Congress will recognize that taking food out of the mouths of children, the elderly and others who struggle to make ends meet can only have disastrous results.”

LaTourette said New Jersey has achieved strong gains in providing school breakfast and summer meals to more children, but that thousands of children still go unserved.

“The key to solving hunger is for communities – schools, local government, higher education and community organizations – to work together to draw down all the available federal resources to feed people, while also creating effective pathways to good jobs and other supports needed for those who are able to become self-sufficient,” she said.