New Jersey will have some new tools to combat food insecurity, which is a growing global concern, via the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Gov. Phil Murphy signed a package of seven bills which were designed to simplify the process of entering into the program July 1. Additionally, Murphy signed bills to expand New Jersey’s child care options and to create a new child tax credit.
“Eliminating food insecurity is a crucial goal of the Legislature. (These bills will) maximize the efficiency of the SNAP program and decrease the waiting period for eligible families to receive assistance,” said State Sen. Nellie Pou (D-35).
Funding for SNAP Projects
Included within the seven bills were provisions to dedicate $750,000 to for a SNAP call center, $250,000 to establish SNAP training for county boards of social services, and $813,000 to expand use of electronic benefits transfer cards under the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP).
“Low-income seniors rely on the SFMNP program to access locally grown fresh fruit and vegetables. This bill would modernize the SFMNP program and provide ways that are more convenient for eligible seniors to make use of their benefits,” said State Sen. Linda Greenstein (D-14), who sponsored the farmers’ market bill.
Community Outreach Programs
The New Jersey Department of Human Services will be instructed to conduct additional SNAP outreach campaigns under one bill, and another will establish a state SNAP Minimum Benefit Program, allocating $50 to each eligible house at a $18 million cost.
“Recent data reveals that only 70% of eligible households participate in the SNAP program, which means a substantial number of eligible families who could benefit are not,” said State Sen. Andrew Zwicker (D-16). “Creating a SNAP outreach program would ensure more families are aware of and able to take advantage of a program that serves as a food security blanket for so many.”
Additionally, some of the laws would require Human Services officials to apply to the federal government for a waiver for time limits for childless adults who receive SNAP, and eliminate employment and training requirements to participate in the program.
A Global and Pervasive Issue
Government data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found consumer food prices had increased 10.1% in May when compared to May 2021, but the issue stretched far beyond New Jersey.
The cumulative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain snarls, the war in Ukraine, and rising inflation were also pressuring global food security. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO) reported world hunger rose in 2021, with around 2.3 billion people across the globe facing moderate to severe difficulty in obtaining enough to eat, reported Yahoo! Finance (July 7).
Meanwhile, a July 8 report from The Wall Street Journal noted this global issues was affecting the poor in both the world’s least- and most-developed countries, showcasing how pervasive the issue was. A May 5 from WSJ found food bank usage was up in the U.S., too.