By Lauren Wanko
“It’s very very difficult to survive,” said Toms River resident Rebecca.
Single mom Rebecca works part-time anywhere between 10 to 20 hours a week.
When asked why she hasn’t tried to find a full-time job, Rebecca said, “I have but a lot of the jobs are not offering full time at all, it’s all part time, minimum wage.”
There are more than 200,000 low-income families in the state with children age eight and under. The latest Annie E. Casey Foundation Kids Count Policy Report indicates of those families more than half have a parent with no full-time, year round employment. Rebecca recently moved into her mom’s house.
“If it wasn’t for my mom right now, my daughter and I would be homeless,” said Rebecca.
The single mom’s grateful her five-year-old is in school because child care was unaffordable. 17 percent of parents of children age five and under in low-income families report that child care issues affected their employment.
“It’s almost cheaper for you to stay home then to put your child in day care,” said Rebecca.
Statewide the number of children receiving NJ SNAP benefits, formerly known as food stamps, has increased by more than 165,000 from 2009 to 2013. Rebecca says the SNAP benefits aren’t enough.
“The money never lasts a whole complete month,” said Rebecca.
That’s why Rebecca visits the Ocean County Hunger Relief Pantry Network twice a month for food. She calls the non-profit a Godsend. Staffers here says there’s been an increase in the number of clients and they’ve also increased the amount of food they give out.
“Generally what we do, we provide a three to four day food supply every 30 days to the client. Now what we’re seeing is these clients are calling and in two to three times a month that they are running out of food,” Ocean County Hunger Relief Assistant to the Executive Director Lee Iannarone.
Ocean County Hunger Relief’s Lee Iannarone says with the lack of full time employment, child care costs, and sky-high rent, the number of families struggling continues to climb. Statewide more than half of New Jersey Households are paying more than 30 percent of their income on rent. In Ocean County that number jumps to nearly 60 percent of households.
“If your only working part time, making $8 an hour, your not gonna be able to afford any rent in New Jersey,” said Rebecca.
“I think job training is a big part of it, but with job training has to be jobs available,” said Iannarone.
As the holidays approach Ocean County Hunger Relief expects even more clients. As for Rebecca she hopes to one day work as medical assistant full-time.