Warren County Residents Face Food Insecurity

| By Jack Reinhard & Michael Pittaro |

For many WCCC students a daily routine includes: a stop at QuickChek, a visit to The Eagle’s Nest Café, and/or to one of the many vending machines.  However, far too many of us face a daily struggle just to eat.  You may be surprised to learn that an unexpectedly large number of students may be unable to afford food which puts at risk their health, well-being, and academic performance.

Food insecurity is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food”.  Its impact is significant, “leaving one million people in New Jersey hungry each day”, according to Jessica Mazzola, from NJ Advance Media for NJ.  For many students, food insecurity is in large part due to living at or just above the poverty level.

Despite New Jersey’s reputation as a wealthy state, the number of households that cannot afford basic household necessities is significant.  In Warren County alone, there are 2,289 families below the poverty level while 13,269 people live just above it, as reported in the Census.

The United Way coined an acronym ALICE, which stands for Asset Limited Income Constrained Employee, to describe families who work hard and earn above the federal poverty level, but are unable to afford the basic necessities of housing, food, child care, health care, and transportation.

The United Way found through the ALICE model, that it takes an estimated household income of $58,039 (poverty threshold) for a family of four to survive and meet their basic needs in Warren County.

These families—above the poverty line but still struggling to meet basic needs—don’t always ask for help with food insecurity.  It was determined that Phillipsburg had the largest number of these households followed by Belvidere, Oxford, Mansfield, and Hackettstown.  The area’s least impacted included:  Franklin Township, Washington, Allamuchy, Hardwick, and Frelinghuysen.

In January 2016, the Food Stamp program was significantly reduced in New Jersey.  People in the United States are “required to work at least 20 hours a week to receive subsidized food aid under the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP”, as stated by Brent Johnson and Samantha Marcus in an article for NJ.com.  Due to the 2009 economy, the work requirement was waived by the Federal Government.  In December of 2015, the NJ Governor’s office announced that it joined nine other states, where the waiver was no longer going to be applied to residents due to an increase in the State employment rate.

There are several nonprofit agencies trying to fill the gap that food stamp program provides and help those in need of assistance below the poverty threshold in NJ. In Warren County, the United Way of Northern New Jersey is working to help those in need of food and to raise awareness about food insecurity.   In addition, the NORWESCAP Food Bank and small food banks in the county are trying to help those who need assistance in providing nutritious meals to families in Warren County.  Warren County Community College has started the Golden Eagle’s Safety Nest program to help its students and promote success at the institution.  The hope of all it to provide people with a better chance of success.

For more information:

NORWESCAP Food Bank: http://www.norwescap.org/help_program_details.php?ID=7

United Way of Northern New Jersey: http://www.unitedwaynnj.org/

WCCC’s Gold Eagle’s Safety Nest: https://www.facebook.com/WCCCGESN/

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