People facing hunger need more money to be food secure. Amount reaches highest level in 20 years.
HILLSIDE, NJ – June 19, 2024
Nearly 1 million people in New Jersey are food insecure, a 22% increase over the previous year, according to Feeding America’s annual Map the Meal Gap study. This includes more than 260,000 children – about 1 in 8. Nationwide, the extra amount of money that people facing hunger say they need to have enough food has reached its highest point in the last 20 years. The Community FoodBank of New Jersey (CFBNJ) is part of Feeding America’s nationwide network of food banks, serving 11 New Jersey counties directly and four in partnership with affiliate food banks.
Rising food prices, the expiration of pandemic-related safety nets, and the failure of wages to keep up with cost of living have all contributed to the steep increase. In New Jersey, one of the nation’s most expensive places to live, the average cost of a meal is $4.19, compared to $3.99 nationally and up from $3.77 in the state last year.
Map the Meal Gap is the only study that provides local-level estimates of food insecurity and food costs for every county and congressional district. It builds upon the USDA’s latest report of national and state data.
“The insights from this year’s study confirm what we’ve been hearing from our network of pantries and other local food assistance organizations: historically high food prices have made food insecurity even worse than it was at the height of the pandemic,” said Elizabeth McCarthy, President & CEO of the Community FoodBank of New Jersey. “But we at CFBNJ still believe that hunger is a solvable problem. All sectors of society must come together to ensure adequate access to nutritious food for all of our New Jersey neighbors.”
Food Insecurity by geography:
  • Food insecurity exists in all 21 New Jersey counties and in every county and congressional district across the country.
  • Cumberland County has New Jersey’s highest rate of food insecurity at 13.1% (1 in 8).
  • Essex County has New Jersey’s highest rate of child food insecurity at 21.4% (1 in 5).
  • Nearly 675,000 people in CFBNJ’s 15-county service area are food insecure, up from over 530,000 last year (a 26% increase). This includes close to 185,000 kids, up from more than 130,000 last year (a 40% increase).
Income and food spending:
  • In New Jersey, 55% of people facing hunger may not qualify for SNAP benefits due to income thresholds.
  • The national food budget shortfall, which reflects the extra money that people who are food insecure report needing to cover their food needs, has hit a record high of $33.1 billion, up nearly 43% from the previous year.
  • In New Jersey, the annual food budget shortfall is now $783,284,000, up nearly 48% from the previous year.
Food costs and meal prices:
  • The national average cost per meal has increased to $3.99, marking a nearly 3% increase compared to the prior year and reaching its highest point in the last two decades, even after adjusting for inflation.
  • In New Jersey, the average cost per meal is $4.19, a 5% increase over the previous year.
Food insecurity by race and ethnicity:
  • Food insecurity among Black and Latino neighbors in New Jersey is at 21% and 20%, respectively, about 3.5 times higher than among white New Jerseyans (6%). These disparities are an example of how historical, social, economic and environmental factors have held many communities of color back, creating barriers to food security.
CFBNJ is the largest food bank in New Jersey, with a network of more than 800 community partners, including food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, child and senior feeding programs, and more. Last year alone, the FoodBank provided nutritious food for over 90 million meals.
With its four-year strategic plan, CFBNJ is equipped to address the rise in food insecurity through advocacy efforts, a focus on healthy food, data-driven strategies and tools, and more. CFBNJ aligns its food distribution and partnership efforts with the specific amounts of food insecurity present in individual communities, tailoring its work to ensure that the need is being met in every city and every town across the organization’s service area. The FoodBank also meets neighbors where they are to address their individual needs by bringing mobile pantries to rural communities and providing food and wrap-around services together in convenient locations like colleges health clinics, and senior centers.
CFBNJ President & CEO Elizabeth McCarthy is available for interviews about Map the Meal Gap data and what CFBNJ is doing to address the spike in food insecurity.
The Community FoodBank of New Jersey (CFBNJ) is the largest anti-hunger, anti-poverty organization in New Jersey, where nearly one million neighbors, including 1 in 8 children, struggle with the emptiness caused by hunger. We are the lead source of nourishing food for 800 pantries serving everyone from infants to college students to families and seniors. Our comprehensive approach addresses the root causes of hunger through food benefits and social services, job training and certification, local farm partnerships, and food policies that nurture all New Jerseyans. By providing food, help, and hope, we are building a food secure future for our state. CFBNJ is a proud member of Feeding America®.
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