Hunger is a growing problem in New Jersey. High unemployment, low wages, and the high cost of living are major factors in food insecurity. While 14 percent of the state’s population is considered food insecure, only 55 percent of these individuals qualify for food stamps under the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Changes in SNAP contained in the Federal Farm Bill of 2014 will lead to a cut in benefits for an estimated 157,000 households.
The charitable sector is scrambling to keep up, but food banks have seen a great increase in demand and a decline in donations due to the weak economy.
The Community Relations Committee of Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ and the Jewish Family Services of Central NJ and MetroWest are inviting community leaders to join them in taking the Food Stamp Challenge. From Sept. 8 to 14, participants will live for a week on a budget of $29.40 for food and beverages — that’s $4.20 a day or $1.40 per meal — like millions of Americans on SNAP programs do.
The challenge, part of a national initiative of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, will launch the Jewish organizations’ local END HUNGER Campaign. The idea was launched at the CRC Legislative Breakfast last May. In search of a bipartisan way to help the most vulnerable, the organizations are asking elected officials, clergy, and lay leaders to stand as one. A number of local politicians have already pledged to take on the challenge, in an effort to build interfaith and community connections to fight hunger and increase advocacy for the most vulnerable.
Those who live in one of the wealthiest areas of the country cannot sit back while others go hungry or undernourished. The Jewish community needs to be at the table. By taking part and publicizing their experiences, participants can raise awareness about fulfilling the blessing found in Isaiah: “If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.”
Readers who want to track the Food Stamp Challenge can go to jfedgmw.org/endhunger.