$20M for Food Banks as ‘Miles-Long [Car] Lines’ of New Jerseyans Ask for Assistance

Gov. Phil Murphy said today that a total of $20 million in federal CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act funding will be directed towards New Jersey’s food banks, with $10 million to be distributed “immediately” as an “emergency infusion,” and the other $10 million “for the months ahead.”

Nearly $390 million in additional federal funding will also be directed towards families/children in need of food assistance, including $208 million in special food assistance benefits “to more than 500,000 school children who would have received free or reduced-priced school meals during the school year.”

In addition, more than $180 million in new, added benefits via federal funding will provide access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) here in New Jersey, and federal approval has been secured to make it easier for recipients to apply and retain SNAP benefits.

“These announcements today are a strong, one-two punch against the rightfully growing fear of hunger,” Murphy said at today’s event, held at the Community Food Bank of New Jersey’s Hillside distribution center.

The Food Bank Strain

Community Food Bank of New Jersey’s President and CEO Carlos M. Rodriguez described miles-long car lines at food distribution pick-ups in New Jersey, as a “growing number of our neighbors have faced layoffs, reduced work hours and missed paychecks.”

The coronavirus and its ensuing economic shutdown has forced more than 1.3 million New Jerseyans to file for unemployment benefits since March 15, and has even turned former food bank donors into recipients.

Rodriquez said, “So many across our state are struggling with hunger for the first time in their lives. During this pandemic, we have seen the unimaginable: In fact, Feeding America projects a 56% increase in New Jersey’s food insecurity rate in the months ahead as a result of this [coronavirus pandemic] crisis, specifically.” He added that that translates into 432,000 New Jersey residents.

Reduced Donations

Several speakers at today’s event noted that food bank challenges have been exacerbated by declining donations, including those from supermarkets and grocery stores that have, at times, struggled to meet recent demand for their regular customers.

Rodriquez said overall, “We were making progress to address hunger, and the pandemic has derailed it as we now face an unprecedented health and economic crisis, which is why ongoing support for all of our food banks is so critical.”

Rodriquez thanked a broader network of feeding programs including pantries and soup kitchens, “as well as all sectors of government, from local officials to state administrators” who were “active partners in our important work before COVID-19 struck, and they have remained as such as we have navigated this uncharted territory, together.”

Other food banks receiving the monies announced today include The Food Bank of South Jersey; Fulfill; Mercer Street Friends Food Bank; Norwescap; and Southern Regional Food Bank.

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