New Jersey is one of the richest states in the nation and yet, every day, tens of thousands of children go to school hungry and come home to an empty table. In 2014, an alarming 340,000 New Jersey children suffered from hunger, according to Feeding America’s Map the Meal Cap 2014.
This hunger hurts all children’s chances for school success. According to Hunger in Our Schools: Share Our Strength’s Teachers Report 2013, nearly three-quarters of educators surveyed said they teach students who regularly come to school hungry because there isn’t enough food at home. Half say hunger is a serious school problem, preventing children from concentrating and causing classroom disruptions.
Childhood hunger is a community-wide problem that requires a concentrated community response. Schools, local government and community organizations all play a key role in ensuring that all children have the nutrition they need to be healthy, learn and grow into productive adults.
The proposed legislation would foster a community-wide response to childhood hunger by encouraging municipalities and counties to convene food policy councils that include local government, schools and community organizations to implement hunger solutions, especially expanding federal child nutrition programs.
Nearly 14 percent of New Jersey’s 1.5 million senior citizens face hunger each year – translating to about 210,000 older residents who don’t have enough food to eat.
These seniors regularly face the terrible choice of buying food, paying the electric bill or paying for medications. People with disabilities face similar hardships.
Hungry hurts the health of our senior citizens – and causes increased spending on health care and medications. Yet for many seniors and people with disabilities who qualify for NJ SNAP (food stamps), assistance can be as little as $16 a month to buy food.
Provide a state supplement to increase the minimum monthly NJ SNAP (food stamps) assistance to $30 from the current $16 benefit for senior citizens and people with disabilities.
New Jersey has the highest rates of unemployment among veterans – those who served in the military but are no longer on active duty, according to data published by the United States Department of Labor.
New Jersey’s nearly 11 percent unemployment rate among its veteran population in 2015 was roughly double the national average of 5.8 percent, according to a labor department report released in March 2016 analyzing U.S. Census data. That means an estimated 10,000 New Jersey veterans were unemployed in 2015.
These veterans struggle to make ends meet and face significant challenges in finding jobs. Now, many may also be shut out of receiving food assistance that could ease their way as they search for gainful employment.
Under a federal rule that took effect in the summer of 2016, people between the ages of 18 and 49 who have no dependents and are not disabled can only receive food assistance for three months over a 3-year period if they do not meet certain special work requirements.
The proposed legislation would exempt unemployed veterans from having to meet “able-bodied adults without dependents” (ABAWD) work requirements in order to receive food assistance through NJ SNAP (food stamps).
Hunger Hampers Education for Many NJ College Students
Hunger is an unwelcome staple at college campuses across New Jersey.
Half of community college students struggle with food hardship, while one in five students are hungry, according to a 2015 national study of 10 community colleges, including Essex County Community College.
Hungry college students, like younger students, struggle to concentrate and succeed in school. And, unlike younger students, they may be forced to delay their education to make ends meet – setting them up for a cycle of poverty that will be increasingly difficult to break.
Colleges and universities should take a comprehensive approach to alleviating student hunger, including gathering data about need and implementing responses that could include on-campus food pantries and enrolling students in food assistance programs.
The New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition is working with the college community and state officials to develop a comprehensive approach to addressing hunger on our college campuses.