November 23, 2009: Thanks and Giving

New Jersey is one of the richest states in the nation and certain counties are among the richest places in the world to live; and yet about 10 percent of households in this state face hunger. We want to believe that hunger only affects people in developing countries or in poor southern states. But two percent more households in New Jersey were hungry in 2007 than were hungry in the preceding 4 years. This is an alarming trend.

The holiday season is associated with family gatherings and big meals where people eat more than they should then sleep in front of the TV only to start eating again when they awaken. For many New Jersey families hardest hit by the poor economy this won’t reflect their holidays.

A new report released by the United States Department of Agriculture found that the percentage of American families who don’t have enough to eat is at its highest level since the agency began food surveys in 1995.

Food banks and pantries throughout the state have been struggling to meet a higher demand as the poor economy triggers greater unemployment and/or reduced work hours. One food pantry in particular, the Crisis Ministry of Princeton and Trenton, is serving 40 percent more households at its Trenton location than a year ago and 50 percent more in Princeton. The median monthly income of families who seek food assistance at the Crisis Ministry is $980 per month–clearly not enough to make ends meet in New Jersey.

Donations and aid to food banks are down–perhaps because the bad economy has reduced everyone’s ability to give. Last winter the Legislature and Governor Corzine sent $3 million in emergency funding to the state’s food banks. This year the state will have to do something again to help. In a country and a state with such wealth we cannot allow people to wonder when and where their next meal will arrive.

The state must continue to provide support for those who need it most. But in this Thanksgiving season, all of us should give thanks for what we have and give whatever we can to those who need it most.

Click here for a list of food pantries in New Jersey.
Feed America’s food bank locator