As the holiday season begins, the Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey is launching a new campaign (and accompanying website) called Stories of New Jersey to call attention to New Jerseyans who struggle to meet their basic needs, and highlight the programs that help put food on their tables. The campaign is launched in partnership with the New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition.
According to the recently released report by Legal Services of New Jersey, almost one-third of New Jersey residents live in poverty. This campaign will show the stories behind these grim statistics – and what can be done about it.
“This is a time of year when many of us spend time with our families and enjoy Thanksgiving meals.” said Serena Rice, Executive Director of the Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey. “But far too many of our neighbors must choose between feeding their families and paying the bills. That is why we have called this campaign ‘Stories of New Jersey,’ because New Jersey is its people, and far too many of its people are struggling. These stories teach us to move beyond the stereotypes that New Jersey is a wealthy state where people can make it if they try.”
Megan is the first person to be featured in Stories of New Jersey. Megan, who works closely with the New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition and Soul of Hunger, is a single mother and domestic violence survivor. She was recently one of the keynote panelists at the Anti-Poverty Network’s Poverty Summit. Receiving SNAP (formerly food stamp) benefits has been instrumental in helping Megan support herself and her children.
“I chose to share my story so that government officials know that we exist and desperately need their continued support,” said Megan, who receives SNAP benefits. “We aren’t lazy people looking to take the easy road in life. We are people starting our lives over and are looking for direction and support.”
Megan is one of more than 1,000,000 people experiencing food insecurity in New Jersey. New Jersey’s SNAP participation rate is 77% – below the national average of 83%. This means that 23% of people who are eligible for SNAP benefits in New Jersey are not receiving them.
“It’s just so important that the story of hunger in New Jersey is told – both around Thanksgiving and the rest of the year as well,” said Adele H. LaTourette, Director, New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition. “It’s even more important that the state focus’ on ways to increase access to programs like SNAP, which was created to be the first line of defense against hunger.”
Megan hopes that by sharing her story others can understand the importance of these programs in helping people rebuild their lives, and that this support can act as a lifeline for survivors of abuse.
“I am starting over from the bottom in every sense of the word,” said Megan. “I am living in a transitional housing program, on a fixed income and rely on food stamps and food pantries to feed my children and myself. This has all resulted from being abused by my ex.”
Each month a new profile will be featured on the Stories of New Jersey website. Going forward these stories can be resources for reporters, legislators and community members to see the people behind the statistics.