Going hungry: NJ households with children more likely to struggle
It's no surprise that across the nation households with children are more likely to face hunger than those with no children.
But a report released Wednesday by the Food Research & Action Center finds the gap is worse in New Jersey than most other states.
Sixteen percent of New Jersey households with children said there had been times in the past 12 months when there wasn't enough money to buy food, compared to 11.5 percent of households with no kids. That ratio ranks as 15th worst in the nation.
"Along with being one of the wealthier states, we're also one of the higher-cost states," said Adele LaTourette, director of the New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition. "I think you need to look at things like the cost of child care ... the cost of what it takes to maintain a household with children in it."
LaTourette said the new report underscores the need to strengthen the state's child nutrition programs, as well as protect food aid through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps).
SNAP reaches about 74 percent of the Garden State's eligible population, compared to 84 percent nationally, according to LaTourette.
A report released in February found the state's school breakfast program was serving 4 percent fewer low-income students than the year prior. Costs for these meals at school, and over the summer, are reimbursed by federal dollars.
Legislation signed into law in May requires that New Jersey's high-poverty schools serve breakfast to students during the school day.
"It's going to take time for that legislation to have an impact," LaTourette said.
Beyond strengthening SNAP and child nutrition programs, the FRAC report made several recommendations to effectively reduce hunger, including increased wages and targeting supports to especially vulnerable populations.