HEALTH

Advocates call for full funding of SNAP program

BY David Cruz, Senior Correspondent |

Hundreds of thousands of New Jersey households that rely on federal food assistance could have to make do with less. Congress is considering a new budget that would further decrease the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for those still chasing the Dream. Senior Correspondent David Cruz reports.

New Jersey is one of the most affluent states in the country. With a median income of almost $72,000, the Garden State is home to mansions and marinas. But in places like Morris County, with a median household income of $77,000, things are not always as sweet as they seem.

Even surrounded by this apparent affluence, thousands of New Jersey residents still need help putting food on the table.

Places like the Interfaith Food Pantry in Morris Plains try to fill the gap with important staples, but federally-funded programs like SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which used to be known as the New Jersey Food Stamp Program, plays a critical role, too.

Wednesday, the New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition released a report, “SNAP Feeds New Jersey”, which shows how widespread the need actually is.

“I think one of the most important things to understand about SNAP is that it is an economic driver. SNAP as you will see in the first paragraph pumps $1.2 billion into New Jersey’s economy,” said Adele LaTourette, director of the New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition. “As soon as a SNAP recipient gets their SNAP dollars they are not going to wait to spend them because, I guarantee you, they are in need of food at that time when they get that money.”

Among other things, the report found that SNAP families have an average median income of just over $21,804. An average of 50 percent of SNAP households in every congressional district have at least one child. On average, 79 percent of SNAP households in each district have at least one person working and more than one third of SNAP households in each district are home to at least one senior citizen.

Wednesday, SNAP clients shared their stories.

“In July, I was without income for two months and, if it wasn’t for my 24-year-old son, who works very hard, he paid my rent for two months,” recounted SNAP program client Audra Rollins. “And for me, that was very difficult because I’ve depended on him at time for finances that I didn’t expect to. It was very humbling because I’ve always worked. I worked since before he was born.”

“My youngest daughter, who is seven, has sickle cell anemia, and without SNAP I would not be able to get the fruits and vegetables that she needs,” added client Contina Wright. “We’re making it through our struggles. My husband went back to work, thank God, and believe it or not I’m in the process of getting my masters in community health.”

SNAP is a bridge, a hand up for those who are struggling, and its funding is critical to the stability of families and, by extension, communities. Wednesday was about sounding the alarm as Congress prepares to decide where its priorities lie.

Chasing the Dream: Poverty and Opportunity in America is a multiplatform public media initiative that provides a deeper understanding of the impact of poverty on American society. Major funding for this initiative is provided by The JPB Foundation. Additional funding is provided by Ford Foundation.