Hunger in America: More families in need

Monmouth, Ocean counties report a significant rise in people seeking assistance


The FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties released findings of a nationwide study during a press conference held Feb. 4 that exposes the harsh reality faced by people who are hungry and in need in Monmouth and Ocean counties.

According to representatives of the Food- Bank, this is the first time that information regarding the current levels of hunger and food insecurity in Monmouth and Ocean counties has been revealed.

The 2010 Hunger in America study, conducted by Feeding America, includes a local report, “A Snapshot of Hunger in Monmouth and Ocean Counties 2009.”

The local study is based on 396 client interviews at 40 pantries, soup kitchens and shelters, as well as 243 agency surveys.

According to the study, 55 percent of people receiving assistance through the Food- Bank are working but unable to sustain themselves and their families.

Many of those who are food insecure have recently lost jobs in the recession. Half of client households have a job or unemployment benefits as their main source of income; 22 percent of adults in client households lost their jobs within the last year and are still unemployed.

Six percent of client households have welfare as their main source of income, 7 percent have no income, and 4 percent are homeless.

“In District 12 we have certainly seen an increased need for assistance in many areas, especially concerning food,” said state Sen. Jennifer Beck (R-Monmouth and Mercer), who attended the press conference, which was held at the FoodBank warehouse in Neptune.

“We are seeing populations that never required assistance before but who have either lost their jobs or are working but underemployed and simply not earning enough to feed their families,” Beck added. “These are distressing numbers and serve to reinforce the fact that New Jersey needs to make job creation a priority.

“We are last on every scale of business friendliness, and it is clear we have that to thank for our high unemployment and underemployment. It is time to make some changes,” the senator said.

The FoodBank supplies food to a network of 251 food pantries, soup kitchens and other feeding programs serving 127,500 residents of Monmouth and Ocean counties. Over the past four years, the FoodBank has seen the amount of food distributed double from 3.3 million pounds in 2005 to 6.7 million pounds in 2009, according to the study.

During that same time period, the demographic has also changed significantly from being made up of mostly single men in 2005 to a large number of families in need of its services last year.

In 2009, the study shows, 40 percent of client household members were children (51,000), up from 27 percent in 2005. Nearly 75 percent of all client households with children were food insecure.

According to the study, 91 percent of pantries and 86 percent of soup kitchens in both counties indicated a severe impact on their ability to provide food for families in need if the FoodBank was no longer able to supply it.

In addition, as many as 92 percent of soup kitchens and 97 percent of pantries rely on the services of volunteers to keep their programs running, and the majority have no paid staff at all.

“Since the economy took a downward turn in 2008, we have seen so many people in need, but also so many people prove just how generous they can be,” said state Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande (R-Monmouth and Mercer).

“It is important to recognize that even as we begin to see improvements in the economy, unemployment in New Jersey is over 10 percent, higher than the national average, and your friends and neighbors are still in need of assistance,” Casagrande added.

Since 2005, the FoodBank has seen demand increase by 84 percent in the population served, nearly double the increase at both the state (45 percent) and national (46 percent) levels, the study found.

“These days everyone probably knows someone who has had to seek some assistance for the first time,” said state Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth and Mercer), who also was at the press conference.

“That is almost a total of 130,000 people in Monmouth and Ocean counties who are now in need of the services provided by the Food- Bank. We are in bad shape and we have to do whatever we can to support agencies such as the FoodBank in their efforts,” said O’Scanlon.

According to the study, average client household income was $16,340 for an average household size of four people.

According to the study, many more clients of the FoodBank had to choose between paying for food or paying for utilities (53 percent compared with 37 percent in 2005) and between paying for food and paying for rent (49 percent in 2009 compared with 35 percent in 2005.)

Community volunteers make the major difference in the lives of families in need; more than 75 percent of soup kitchens and pantries of soup kitchens are run entirely by volunteers, with no paid staff.

Volunteers and donors can contact the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties by calling 732-918-2600 or visiting