On Dec. 4, 2019, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a move to cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits of an estimated 700,000 low-income people, effective in April 2020. The new rule will impact food vulnerable individuals in every state in the nation, putting a tremendous strain on regional emergency food resources – and leaving tens of thousands of food-insecure families at risk of the disaster of hunger.
As the leading hunger relief organization in South Jersey, providing food resources to Camden, Burlington, Gloucester and Salem counties, the Food Bank of South Jersey is taking steps to mitigate the effects on families who find themselves impacted by loss of SNAP benefits in April 2020.
Currently, in Camden County alone, there are 17,200 food-insecure children, 24% of whom are currently ineligible for federal nutrition programs, and 76% of whom are currently income-eligible for nutrition programs – at least, as of today. Overall in Camden County alone, the total food-insecure population is over 60,000. Food insecure populations in Burlington, Gloucester and Salem counties are equally sobering. Burlington County currently has 41,680 food-insecure residents, of which 10,960 are food-insecure children. Gloucester County holds 8,180 food-insecure children in a total food-insecure population of 26,860 individuals. Suffering the impact of rural hunger, the less populated farmlands of Salem County shows 8,080 food-insecure individuals, of which 2,550 are children – all of which may live more than 10 miles from the nearest grocery store.
Food insecurity refers to USDA’s measure of lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members and limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods. Food insecure children are those children living in households experiencing food insecurity. Food insecure households are not necessarily food insecure all the time. Food insecurity may reflect a household’s need to make trade-offs between important basic needs, such as housing or medical bills, and purchasing nutritionally adequate foods.
In a statement by New Jersey Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson released following news of the impending change to SNAP eligibility, Johnson asserts: “We are deeply disappointed to see the Trump Administration finalize a rule that will, when fully implemented, threaten food assistance benefits for as many as 12,000 New Jerseyans. New Jersey has been able to use the flexibility in the SNAP program to help individuals without dependents who face challenging economic circumstances continue receive SNAP benefits beyond a three-month limit. To take away that flexibility at a time when the New Jersey economy is improving and we are helping people get on a better financial footing is simply wrong. This will set back the work we have done to help these New Jerseyans and will put more pressure on food banks and others across the state to try to fill in the gaps.”
Currently, the Food Bank of South Jersey is bolstering its Emergency Food Fund, taking steps to strength its food resources and expand existing programs and food distribution initiatives throughout South Jersey. With a focus on strengthening emergency food resources to provide hunger relief when needed most throughout South Jersey, the Food Bank is monitoring SNAP news closely to be best prepared to offer the community leadership, food distribution resources and additional food supplies required to support those at risk of losing SNAP benefits next year.
“The Food Bank of South Jersey, and its network of more than 180 food distribution agencies, stands ready to provide food to populations impacted by the impending changes in SNAP eligibility requirements,” reports Fred. C. Wasiak, President and CEO of the Food Bank of South Jersey. “We are here to provide hunger relief to those in our region who need it most – we are here, and we are ready to serve.”
The Food Bank of South Jersey (FBSJ) is the leader in providing safe and nutritional food to people in need throughout South Jersey. FBSJ distributes food, provides nutrition education and cooking courses, and helps food-insecure families and seniors find sustainable ways to improve their lives. Throughout 2018, FBSJ distributed 11 million pounds of food, including 75,000 after school snacks, 200,000 summer meals, 15,000 senior food boxes, as well as serving 95 health and wellness programs to more than 6,000 residents. Providing community impact through local support, FBSJ ensures that local donations stay local. FBSJ is a member of Feeding America, our nation’s largest hunger-relief organization. To learn more, visit www.foodbanksj.org.