With the federal government’s initiative to end obesity and hunger in the country, New Jersey receives funding and support from the Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) to provide several food benefits and nutritional programs to assist low-income families and senior citizens by increasing access to healthy meals and education on dietary health care. Through the partnership of the FNS with nutrition educators, local farm markets and other non-profit organizations within the states, their programs have been successful in serving one in four Americans throughout a year. New Jersey is able to utilize a few of the 15 federal nutrition assistance programs. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program and special programs for school meals are among the most popular and effective. Families and residents of New Jersey who qualify for any of the food assistance programs can receive benefits, accessible through an electronic card, to purchase eligible groceries at authorized retail stores.
New Jersey SNAP Program
Formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, SNAP is a social service program supported and administered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the FNS. The primary goal of SNAP is to combat hunger and malnutrition in the state by providing accessible and effective economic relief and nutritional benefits to low-income families and seniors. As the largest food assistance program in the country, SNAP works with the FNS and other authorized non-profit organizations to ensure that every resident of New Jersey has access to a healthy diet.
Eligibility for the SNAP requires potential beneficiaries meet certain limitations and pass several tests for income, resources and household sizes. Households with members who are not already receiving assistance through TANF, SSI or any other general assistance program are required to meet tests concerning their gross and net income levels.
Typically, an applicant must file online, participate in a face-to-face interview and provide proof of identity and verification status. When an applicant is approved for SNAP, they will receive benefits through New Jersey’s “Families First” electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card. The local or county offices will automatically load the approved benefits amount each month to purchase groceries at authorized food stores. The amount given depends on the household and income information provided by the applicant.
New Jersey WIC
Women Infants and Children (WIC) is a supplemental nutrition program in New Jersey that provides health care support and nutritional assistance to low-income pregnant and postpartum mothers with infants and children up to five years old. The program focuses on efforts to prevent poor pregnancy outcomes, nutritional challenges and health care risks for children and mothers who have very few resources. Applying for WIC benefits requires an appointment with the local agency. Qualified and eligible women may receive benefits through an EBT card or Food Packages, depending on approved status.
School Meal Programs in New Jersey
The New Jersey Department of Agriculture (NJDA) provides school meal assistance through the School Lunch Commodity Distribution Program and the Farm to School Program.
The School Lunch Commodity Distribution Program is able to provide about 30 million pounds of USDA food commodities to over 700 school districts, child and adult centers and other approved organizations dedicated to providing nutritional assistance. A variety of healthy foods are stored and distributed through the NJDA’S food warehouse system.
The Farm to School program connects schools throughout New Jersey with local farmers to provide over one-hundred types of fresh produce and agricultural products for school cafeterias to improve nutrition and support local farmers. Additionally, the program offers school educational materials on gardening and environmental care to encourage a sense of community in the students.
End Hunger New Jersey
The End Hunger New Jersey was created and is currently supported by the Hunger Prevention Advisory Committee (HPAC). The goal is to combat the increasing food insecurity rate in New Jersey, which is at 13 percent. Feeding America’s 2012 Food Insecurity and Food Costs reported that roughly one-third of New Jersey children live in families that are not earning enough to meet their nutritional needs.
Created through the New Jersey Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program Act, during November 2000, the HPAC and End Hunger New Jersey partner with various food assistance programs like SNAP to provide secure, safe and healthy food to low-income families.
Commodity Supplemental Food Program:
For low income seniors who are at least 60 years old, the state of New Jersey and the USDA created the Commodity Supplement Food Program (CSFP) which supplies eligible seniors with nutritious commodity foods to supplement their diets.
Food packages and commodities are prepackaged and distributed monthly to qualified seniors in the program. However, depending on what’s available from the USDA, the contents of the packages could change from month to month.
Only seniors who are verified residents of New Jersey can apply for the program. Based on their income and the guidelines of established by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), seniors needing food assistance could be receive CSFP benefits. Upon approval, applicants may be placed on a waiting list if slots are full and will be notified in the order they were placed. Otherwise, approved seniors will begin receiving monthly food packages.