Working families in NJ struggling to put food on their table
More than a million New Jersey residents are considered "food insecure" in a new report from Feeding America.
By the federal government's definition, these residents don't have access at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life.
According to the "Map the Meal Gap" report, the food insecurity rate in New Jersey is 11.8 percent, giving the designation to 1,051,880 Garden State residents.
The analysis used the latest available government numbers on population, incomes and unemployment.
"With stagnant wages and with the very high cost of living in the state, you can have a family where people are working two and three and more jobs, and they still are struggling to food on the table," said Julia Kathan, director of public relations and communications for the Community FoodBank of New Jersey.
Nearly half of the households served by the FoodBank, for example, have at least one family member who has been employed in the past year, Kathan noted.
While food insecurity is an issue for at least tens of thousands of people in every New Jersey county, the insecurity rate tends to be lowest in the counties considered to be the most affluent, such as Hunterdon, Morris and Somerset.
The food insecurity rate is highest in Essex County at 18.6 percent, representing 789,616 residents.
About 220 people are served daily at St. Ann's Soup Kitchen in Newark where hot lunch is available five days per week.
And that number has gone down over the past year or so, according to Larry Crawford, a client advocate at the kitchen.
"I hope some people are getting jobs," he said. "I hope some people are getting help with social services that they weren't before."
Looking at children only, New Jersey's food insecurity rate stands at 16.8 percent, according to the report. That's down from 18.3 percent last year and 18.5 percent the year prior.