New Jersey received critical acclaim for its response to hunger during the pandemic. Here’s what we know about our performance: The future, and our policy leaders, especially Governor Murphy himself, must prove they are dedicated to fixing a very complex system.
All of this is detailed in a special report from Food. The Center for Research and Action (FRAC), the national institution that studies poverty-related hunger, has partnered with Robert Wood Johnson to form an All-Star Advisory Workgroup, a food policy initiative wise for New Jersey to consider. made dozens of recommendations for
And the report is a reminder that we are running out of time. Because food insecurity (a.k.a. a second pandemic) will only get worse if there is inflation, a collapse of his supply chain, and government apathy.
Let’s start with math. At the height of the pandemic, more than 285,000 households lacked access to affordable food and were hit hardest by race and ethnicity. In 2021, 14% of black New Jersey households and 18% of Latino households said they didn’t have enough food, compared to 5% of white households. .
The FRAC panel had a long list of policy solutions, but none of them affect access to food in the state, including federal programs, state governments, farms, wholesale/retail markets, food banks, nonprofits, schools, and transportation. It was emphasized that perhaps our greatest need was a single cabinet-level nominee to coordinate these programs – given the predominance of departments that give rice field.
Everyone seems to agree, including Governor Murphy. He even signed a law establishing the Food Insecurity Advocate, which he dates back to October 4th.
Seven months later, there’s still no food tour, and Murphy’s office won’t explain why. A spokeswoman for Craig Coughlin, point man for most food initiatives in our state, said the Speaker of Congress was “at the top of the administration about filling the position. It showed that we were getting closer.”
If it took Murphy over three years to fill out the NJ Transit bulletin board, you’d believe it.
Our program is managed by different departments and it takes huge brains to navigate this acronym world, so the appointment of a food advocate is important. The welfare department administers SNAP or food stamps. The Ministry of Health is in charge of her WIC (SNAP for Women Infants and Children). The Departments of Agriculture and Department of Education operate the USDA’s school feeding program. EDA also awards grants to Sustain and Serve, a program that maintains restaurants and distributes free meals to the poor.
Lisa Pitz, assistant director of Hunger Free New Jersey, explained that while these agencies operate in silos, they are feeding the same people, so there are more efficient ways to coordinate services. doing. Food Insecurity Advocate will.
“We need a centralized system where people can sign up for all these services as a ‘flawless door’ concept so that people can connect to all the programs they are eligible for,” said Pitts. . “But someone has to take responsibility for creating a multi-service portal and coordinating these services.”
“Food advocates can help implement the recommendations in the report. They can actually put them into action,” said Geraldine Henchy, FRAC Director of Nutrition and senior member of the project staff. Agreed. “And New Jersey could show other states how it’s done.”
And as Murphy steps into the appointment, the FRAC report cites coverage gaps. Two numbers stood out. Only his 81% of eligible New Jerseyers attended SNAP in 2018 (ranked 28th nationally), and only his 58% of eligible people attended WIC in 2019 (ranked 21st nationally). ).
Especially now the state faces an imminent crisis with food stamps. Federal re-registration requirements were waived during the pandemic, but county social services recently began informing people that re-evaluation is required to maintain SNAP benefits (usually by mail). Despite the best efforts of organizations such as Legal Services, the response has not been exactly robust.
“Maybe some people aren’t following up because they’re used to not doing it in two years, and some people have outdated contact information,” says Pitz. “But too many have not recertified and their cases are closed.”
Hunger Free NJ predicts food insecurity will spike in late summer as it estimates that the elderly and disabled will be hit hardest, with an average monthly benefit loss of $82 per person. . When you factor in supply chain issues, ballooning costs, and dwindling support, the burden of food banks is overwhelming for being our essential heroes.
“New Jersey will face the Hunger Cliff like any other state,” warned Henchy. “There is no time to lose.”
We can all agree that it’s a shame to have so many starving people in such a wealthy state, but Trenton keeps his eyes off the ball, so it can’t be.
Calling the FRAC report “the foundation for the next step,” Coughlin promises to dig deeper. The administration said it was considering the report. Time out. Any further delay is dangerous and unacceptable.
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