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There is a place where people wake up hungry in the morning and go to bed hungry at night. These people are our neighbors. The place they live is called Trenton.

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With Proposed Cuts To SNAP, More Hunger On The Horizon

SNAP Roundtable

Troubling news about cuts of more than 25% to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — “food stamps”) in the recently proposed federal budget, for a total of $193 billion over 10 years, worries area social service organizations: How can we provide more food for the hungry in the face of the increased demand and human misery that are sure to come? The budget proposes shifting to the states the responsibility of funding the remainder — or choosing not to.

In a roundtable discussion hosted by New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney June 22, leaders of TASK, the Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey, New Jersey Policy Perspective, New Jersey Foundation for Aging, Fulfill and New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition shared their concerns and sought to underscore the importance of protecting funding for SNAP at the federal level.

After meeting with her colleagues and Sen. Sweeney, Joyce Campbell, TASK Executive Director, said, “The possibility of a reduction in SNAP benefits is of great concern to those operating soup kitchens and food pantries. Considering that TASK alone provided 22% more meals this year, including 18% more meals to children, we cannot imagine how, with cuts in SNAP benefits, the community can meet what is clearly an increasing need.”

People who lose their SNAP benefits will increasingly turn to nonprofits to feed themselves and their families. Social service organizations, with support from their donors and volunteers, will be called upon as never before to leap into the breach to ameliorate food insecurity in and around Trenton.

In Mercer County, 16,500 households receive SNAP benefits. Only 6% of those on SNAP receive unemployment benefits through Work First NJ. This leaves more than 15,000 low-income households, many of them working poor families, who also need assistance to get the nutrition they need. The New Jersey State Food Purchase Program has been level-funded since FY12, funding for the Federal Emergency and Food and Shelter Program continues to decrease, and the cost of living is rising across the board, so that the economically vulnerable are forced to make difficult choices and spend more money on basic needs such as shelter, clothing and utilities and have fewer resources with which to put food on the table.

“The nonprofit community feeding programs already rely heavily on private contributions of food, funds and time to ensure people do not go hungry,” said Campbell. “Very few government dollars support such organizations. At TASK alone each year we utilize the support of 3,000 volunteers who give more than 22,000 hours, at a value of approximately $600,000, and we receive food donations valued at $550,000. Government funding to support our meal service is about 1.2% of our budget.”

Feeding the hungry is a crucial and considerable undertaking. As federal dollars wane, nonprofits such as TASK are committed to serving people who fall through the cracks of the “safety net” as best we can and we all feel greater urgency to provide sustenance to people in their time of need while they strive to attain self-sufficiency and improved quality of life.

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In Plain Sight: The Story of TASK

By LEE SEGLEM, Member of TASK Board of Trustees

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