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 2015:
- Nearly 11 percent of New Jersey residents were food insecure, meaning they did not have an adequate, consistent supply of food. That translates to roughly 1 million hungry people.
- It’s even worse for children. Fifteen percent of New Jersey children suffered from hunger.
- About one-third of these residents earned too much to qualify for nutrition assistance.
View data by county.
- From 2010 to 2016, the number of children eligible for free- or low-cost school meals rose an alarming 21 percent. In 2016, more than 524,000 children lived in low-income households that qualify for school meals. (NJ Kids Count 2017)
- 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
While the number of people receiving NJ Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) grew 20 percent from 2011 to 2016, this trend is reversing. In March 2017, about 804,000 residents received NJ SNAP benefits — a nearly 8 percent decline since March 2016. The number of children receiving this nutritional assistance also dropped 8 percent to about 385,700 in March 2017. The average NJ SNAP benefit is about $142 a month.
Meals for Kids
Seniors, Vets, College Students All Face Hunger
- About 200,000 of New Jersey’s older residents — or 14 percent — face hunger in 2016. (Meals on Wheels)
- 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, with nearly 11 percent – or about 10,000 veterans — unemployed. These veterans struggle to make ends meet and many are shut out of receiving food assistance because of strict work requirements.
- Half of community college students struggle with food hardship, while one in five students is hungry, according to a 2015 national study of 10 community colleges, including Essex County Community College.
- 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 (NASPA).
- 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.