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Changing policy and practice to ensure all New Jerseyans have healthy food, every single day

SNAP Stories

Real People, Real Needs

Hunger is stealthy. It can invade our lives in one crushing moment – a lost job, a debilitating accident, a serious illness. Hunger strikes 1 million New Jersey residents each year, hurting their health, their productivity and their ability to care for their families.

Here are stories from real New Jersey residents to illustrate how critically  important it is to support food assistance for all those in need. We applaud their courage and thank them for sharing their stories.

A Good Worth Ethic

Like many families, good food was always at the center of Audrey Rollins’ family gatherings.

Growing up in a middle-class family in Morristown, Rollins never knew hunger – and never imagined she would need help to feed herself and her family.

That changed suddenly a few years ago, when she was injured on the job and began suffering from other health problems, including severe arthritis. Having worked since she was 17 years old, the very real prospect of not having enough money to buy food was frightening. She did not know how she would feed herself and her son.

“I was taught a strong work ethic,’’ Rollins says. “I have worked as a home health aide for many years. I have a diploma from Dover College and worked as a Medical Assistant for almost 21 years. ‘’

Luckily, Rollins was able to receive help through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps). That has been a Godsend.

“Without SNAP, I would not have been able to feed my family. SNAP has been a blessing,’’ Rollins says, adding that she is also grateful to the Interfaith Food Pantry in Morris Plains, which provides supplemental food when her SNAP assistance runs out.

“SNAP means the difference between missing a meal or not,’’ Rollins notes. “SNAP gives me peace of mind.  The program helps me buy healthy foods and I can stretch those dollars at the grocery store and make a lot of meals for my son and me.’’

She urges members of Congress to protect SNAP for her family and others like her, whose fortunes can change in a tragic instant.

Her message to Congress: “This program helps your constituents — families, seniors and people with disabilities. Please, no caps, no cuts.’’

‘The American Dream’

Contina Wright and her family were living the American dream. She and her husband were both working. They owned their own home, had two cars and were able to enjoy some luxuries, like family vacations and the occasional dinner out.

She never worried about going hungry.

“That dream turned into a nightmare when my husband was laid off from his construction job and couldn’t find steady work for nearly two years,’’ Wright remembers. “I was still working, but one income was not enough.’’

Then, Wright was diagnosed with a seizure disorder and was also unable to work.

“We lived off our retirement and other savings so we were able to keep our heads above water for a while,’’ she explains. “But, as each month passed with no promise of steady work, our savings dwindled.’’

One day, there was nothing left.

During that terrible time, Wright applied for SNAP.

“Our SNAP benefits helped us put food on the table and make sure our children wouldn’t go to bed hungry and that they had the nutrition they needed to learn and grow,’’ she said. “Our youngest daughter, who is 7 years old, suffers from sickle cell anemia.  The nutrition assistance we have received from SNAP allowed us to buy the fruits and vegetables she needs to stay healthy.’’

Now, Wright’s husband is back to work and she is attending school, with the goal of earning a Master’s degree.

“We are still getting back on our feet and have our struggles,’’ Wright says. “But I am hopeful for a bright future for my family. I am so thankful that SNAP assistance has been there for us when we needed it.’’

Wright has a simple message for Congress: “I want our representatives to remember that at any point in time this could be you.  So, please do not cut this critical nutrition assistance program that helps so many families in our state.’’

Storm Steals Family’s Life

After Superstorm Sandy it, Jim S. lost not only his home, but his job.

The storm destroyed the family’s Brick Township home, forcing them to move five times in as many years.

While enduring this nightmare, Jim lost his management position at a company that provided equipment for large corporate and entertainment events after business dwindled in the storm’s aftermath.

With the job loss came the loss of health insurance for his entire family. Jim’s youngest son suffers from a pulmonary lung disorder, is under the care of several doctors and must take numerous medications, all of which would have been impossible to provide without the NJ Family Care, the state’s free or low-cost health coverage.

As months went by, the family’s saving dwindled, especially since they were paying rent on an apartment, as well as making mortgage payments while they waited for funds from FEMA and the insurance company to make the needed repairs.

“I knew things were really bad when there no food in our refrigerator,’’ Jim recalls. “With three children to provide for, we had no choice but to apply for SNAP.’’

Without SNAP and other safety net services, including Fulfill Food Bank in Neptune, Jim says he and his family would certainly have gone hungry.

“This can happen to anyone at any time,’’ Jim says. “Without SNAP and other services, I don’t know what we would have done. We’re slowly making our way back, but it has been an incredibly difficult and painful road. One that no one should have to walk down alone.’’

“Grandma Home Goods”

Alice is 81 years old and lives in senior housing in Flemington. She gets social security and $45 a month from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, aka food stamps).  She still works two days a week at Home Goods, where she enjoys the comradery of her co-workers, especially the high school students who call her “Grandma Home Goods.’’

They help her with some of the tasks she has trouble with and when one of them graduates from high school, Alice gives them a card and small gift.  She says that working those two days keeps her going, but she is not sure how much longer she will be able to physically do the work.

Because Alice lives on a fixed income, she relies on SNAP and the Flemington Area Food Pantry to put food on the table. She only takes what she needs because, she says, there is always somebody else who needs it more.

She thinks it should be easier, not harder, for people to get the help they need, especially seniors.

“Our elected officials should do more to help seniors.  We worked and contributed to society.  Now, we have to jump through hoops to get help and just scrape by.’’

SNAP Helps Flemington Resident with Debilitating Injuries

After being hit by a drunk driver when she was just 18 years old, Joyce, now 58, suffers from debilitating back and neck problems and is forced to live on a meager disability payment of just $890 a month.

The Flemington resident would not be able to put food on the table if it weren’t for food assistance from SNAP.  But, her SNAP benefits have been reduced over the years from $194 a month to just $94. Still, this small amount, along with monthly visits to the Interfaith Food Pantry, keeps food on the table.

Although Joyce has had several back surgeries over the years, she was able to work as a bus driver for a local school district and the county for more than a decade. In 2009, however, she become too disabled to work.

Joyce has been through a great deal, but is grateful for the various federal safety net programs that help her stay housed, fed and provided with necessary medical care for her disabilities.

“Without Section 8, I would be on the street. Without SNAP, I wouldn’t have enough food and without Medicare and Medicaid…well, I don’t think I could survive,’’ she said.

 

 

Hungry NJ Seniors

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Average SNAP Benefit

Hungry NJ Residents