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416,000 NJ children living on food stamps

The latest numbers from the New Jersey Department of Human Services suggest more than 882,000 people in the state are living on food stamps. More than 416,000 of them are children.

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 19:  A grocery store advertises that they accept food stamps in the South Bronx on September 19, 2013 in New York City.  According to the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau report, over a quarter-million people in the South Bronx are living in poverty, making the 16th Congressional District the poorest in the nation. New Census Bureau numbers for all of New York City show that the poverty rate has risen to 21.2 percent in 2012, from 20.9 percent the year before. As New Yorkers prepare to vote for their next mayor following Michael Bloomberg, the Democratic candidate Bill de Blasio has focused on the theme that New York has transformed into a "tale of two cities" under the Bloomberg administration.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
A grocery store advertises that they accept food stamps in the South Bronx on September 19, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

These numbers are significantly higher than just a few years ago, and they don’t even tell the whole story, according to Serena Rice, executive director of the Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey.

“Only 77 percent of households that are eligible by income to receive this help actually get that help,” Rice said.

While many people may simply not realize they are income-eligible, Rice said there is a sizable crowd who’s just too ashamed to ask for outside assistance.

“I think it is because of the stigma,” she said. “A lot of people are embarrassed to ask for help when the program is there because our society recognizes our whole society does better when people aren’t hungry.”

The number of people on food stamps has skyrocketed since the economy tanked last decade, but it’s beginning to level out. New Jersey’s threshold is 185 percent of the federal poverty level.

According to the state, food stamps are utilized mostly in Essex County, followed by Hudson and Passaic. Hunterdon County has the least amount of people who depend on food stamps.

Rice noted the average household, in the past, would stay on food stamps for 10 months. Now it’s up to 12 months because people are not finding work as fast.

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