Hunger Pervasive in Garden State
Despite being one of the richest states in the nation, hunger is pervasive across New Jersey. Children, working parents, senior citizens, veterans and others all face hunger. According to Feeding America’s Map of the Meal Gap, in 2016:
- One in 10 New Jersey residents were food insecure, meaning they did not have an adequate, consistent supply of food. That translates to more than 919,000 hungry people.
- It’s even worse for children — 13.5 percent of New Jersey children suffered from hunger, translating to more than 268,000 children.
- About one-third of these residents earned too much to qualify for nutrition assistance.
View data by county.
- From 2010 to 2018, the number of children eligible for free- or low-cost school meals rose 20 percent. In 2018, more than 537,000 children lived in low-income households that qualify for school meals. (Food for Thought: The State of School Breakfast in New Jersey, 2018-19, Hunger Free New Jersey)
- Across the country, the rate of hunger among seniors has more than doubled since 2001, according to the National Council on Aging. And it is expected to climb even higher as Baby Boomers age.
- When factoring in the real cost of living in New Jersey, an estimated 1 in 4 residents earn too little to meet their basic needs. (New Jersey Anti-Poverty Network).
- Almost 900,000 people in the state rely on food banks. (Hunger in America 2014).
NJ SNAP Declining
Despite a growing need, the number of people receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) is steadily declining. In January 2019, 712,478 people, including children, seniors, the working poor and disabled, received benefits from this federal program – a 6 percent drop from January 2018. The average NJ SNAP benefit is about $142 a month. (New Jersey Department of Human Services, Program Statistics)
Meals for Kids
- About 10 percent of New Jersey’s older residents faced hunger in 2016, yet less than half of these eligible seniors received SNAP. (Food Research & Action Center)
- Nearly 418,000 seniors are isolated, living alone, while almost 403,000 are living in or near poverty. (Meals on Wheels)
- New Jersey has the highest rate of unemployment among veterans – those who served in the military but are no longer on active duty, according to the United States Department of Labor. Nearly 11 percent – or about 10,000 veterans — are unemployed. These veterans struggle to make ends meet and many are shut out of receiving food assistance because of strict work requirements.
- More than one third of all college students don’t always have enough to eat, while nearly half – 42 percent – of community college students regularly face hunger. (Temple University and the Wisconsin HOPE Lab)
- Student hunger was cited as the third most important issue affecting college campuses, according to another survey conducted by the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators.
- These hungry students are unlikely to receive help from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, (SNAP, commonly known as food stamps). According to the December 2015 survey by University of Wisconsin researchers, just 20 percent of these college students received food stamps.