What is Child Food Insecurity?
What is Child Food Insecurity?
There are more than 865,900 people living with food insecurity in the State of New Jersey today. Of these, 260,340 are children. In South Jersey, more than 136,750 people – 1 in 9 adults and 1 in every 8 children – are struggling with food insecurity in Burlington, Camden, Gloucester and Salem counties alone.
The total number of food-insecure children living in this four-county region is 38,890.
What is the suffering, struggle and impact of nearly 40,000 food-insecure children within a four-county region of South Jersey?
- Hungry children are sick more often, and more likely to have to be hospitalized, the costs of which are passed along to the business community as insurance and tax burdens.
- Hungry children suffer growth impairment that precludes their reaching their full physical potential, contributing to developmental impairments that limit their physical, intellectual and emotional development.
- Hungry children ages 0-3 years cannot learn as much, as fast, or as well because food insecurity results in a chronic lack of nutrition, which harms cognitive development during critical periods of rapid brain growth, actually changing the fundamental neurological architecture of the brain and central nervous system.
- Hungry children generally do more poorly in school and have lower academic achievement because they are not well prepared for school and cannot concentrate – due to hunger.
- Hungry children have more social and behavioral problems because they feel bad, have less
energy for complex social interactions, and cannot adapt as effectively to environmental stresses.
- Workers who experienced hunger as children are not as well prepared physically, mentally, emotionally or socially to perform effectively in the contemporary workforce. Workers who experienced hunger as children create a workforce pool that is less competitive, with lower levels of educational and technical skills, and seriously constrained human capital.
Every child has the right to eat.
Food is one of our most basic needs. Along with oxygen and water, food is a basic necessity for human survival – the care of a community’s healthy, wellness and sustainability. And yet, in South Jersey, there are nearly 40,000 children who go to bed at night hungry.
What does child food insecurity look like in South Jersey? It looks like the face of every child you see, any place you go. School playgrounds. The movies. Your local parks. Church. The supermarket. Little league games. Your pediatrician’s office. Your very neighborhood. The house next to your own. There are missed meals and empty plates in households from Willingboro to Glassboro, Medford to Penns Grove … there are no boundaries when it comes to the painful sting of child hunger.
Child Food Insecurity – Right Now
As you read this right now, there are thousands of children going hungry today in rural communities, with limited access to nutritional, affordable food resources. There are thousands South Jersey children going without dinner in seemingly affluent neighborhoods, as their parents struggle to pay mortgages in a state that carries some of the highest property taxes in the nation. In households across the State of New Jersey, there are sleepless nights experienced in food-insecure homes where medical bills, tuition expenses and utility bills are paramount to ensuring refrigerators are full. Child food insecurity is real, it exists in South Jersey – it is a fact of life in New Jersey.
Understanding the impact of child hunger is a critical step in providing support and solutions to address childhood nutrition and food insecurity in South Jersey. Staggeringly, according the the most recent figures provided by Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap Study
, over 12.5 million children in the United States live each day with hunger. In the State of New Jersey the total is 260,340 children living each day in food-insecure households. For the nearly 40,000 children impacted in Burlington, Camden, Gloucester and Salem counties, hunger is a fact of life.
It’s a simple fact: A child’s chance for a bright tomorrow starts with getting enough food to eat today. Currently in South Jersey, 1 in 8 children may not know where they will get their next meal.