New study: New Jersey hunger soaring as hunger reduction advances are eaten up by federal aid cuts, inflation
More Than 942 Thousand New Jersey Residents Didn't Have Enough to Eat in Just One Week
NEW JERSEY – The number of people without enough food over one seven-day period spiked by 89 percent in New Jersey, and 30 percent nationwide between October of 2021 and October of 2022, according to a report by the nonprofit group Hunger Free America, based on an analysis of federal data.
Over that year, the number of people without enough food increased from 500,022 to 942,604 in New Jersey, and from 19.9 million to 25.7 million nationwide.
Hunger Free America attributes the surge in food insecurity to the expiration of the expanded Child Tax Credit and universal school meals, coupled with the impact of inflation. Many federal benefit increases have either gone away entirely, or are being ramped down, even as prices for food, rent, healthcare, and fuel continue to soar.
According to the USDA food insecurity data – a different way of measuring food hardship analyzed by Hunger Free America – across New Jersey, 8.5% of residents, or 751 thousand people, lived in food insecure households from 2019-2021. This includes 10.4% of children in the state (203,925), 7.2% of employed adults (309,725), and 6.2% of older New Jersey State residents (128,649).
“Effective federal public policies over the previous few years were spectacularly successful in stemming U.S. hunger, but as many of those policies have been reversed, hunger has again soared,” said Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America. “At exactly the moment when so many Americans are in desperate need of relief, many of the federally funded benefits increases, such as the Child Tax Credit and universal school meals, have expired, due mostly to opposition from conservatives in Congress. While increases in food and cash assistance were far greater than the increases in food prices, leaving the vast majority of Americans in far better condition than they would have been without this extra aid, hunger and food insecurity rates continue to soar in all fifty states, especially among working people, children, and seniors. We desperately need the upcoming lame duck session of Congress to address this crisis.”
Other findings of the study:
- Nationally, 11.0% of Americans were found to live in food insecure households between 2019 and 2021. According to USDA data, the states with the highest rates of food insecure individuals from 2019-2021 were Texas (16.8%), Mississippi (15.6%), Oklahoma (15.3%), Louisiana (14.8%), and Arkansas (14.3%).
- 14.5% of children in the U.S. lived in food insecure households in the 2019-2021 time period. The states with the highest rates of food insecure children were Delaware (20.2%), Mississippi (19.0%), Oklahoma (18.9%), Michigan (18.6%), and Louisiana (18.2%).
- Nationally, 8.2% of employed adults in the U.S. lived in food insecure households during the three-year time period (table 3). The states with the highest rates of food insecurity among employed adults were Arkansas (11.9%), Delaware (11.4%), Texas (11.3%), Louisiana (11.2%), and Oklahoma (11.2%).
- In the U.S., 7.0% of older Americans, defined as people 60 years and older, lived in food insecure households (table 4). Mississippi had the highest rate of food insecurity among older Americans at 12.6%, followed by Louisiana (12.3%), District of Columbia (11.5%), Oklahoma (9.6%), and South Carolina (9.6%).
- Nearly three-fourths of respondents to our national food pantry and soup kitchen survey (73.1%) said they served more people in 2022 than in 2021.
The report includes detailed public policy recommendations at the federal level, state, and city level, including passage of the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Bill and the HOPE Act of 2021, reauthorization of the Child Tax Credit, which raised millions of families out of poverty, and making permanent the pandemic-era improvements in SNAP access for college students.