Helping the Hungry Is an Urgent Issue

This week Federation launched the Food Stamp Challenge. Eighteen NJ legislators and 55 Jewish community leaders are taking the Challenge from September 8-14. Each participant has committed to living on $4.20 a day — $30 a week — the amount the average SNAP (food stamp) recipient lives on — to experience first-hand the lives of those who struggle with food insecurity every day and raise awareness of the need to find a bi-partisan solution to hunger in New Jersey.

Legislators participating in the Challenge include:

Sen. Sandra Cunningham - Dist. 31
Sen. Tom Kean Jr. - Dist. 21
Sen. Raymond Lesniak -     Dist. 20
Sen. Teresa Ruiz - Dist. 29
Sen. Joseph Vitale - Dist. 19
Asm. Craig Coughlin - Dist. 19
Asm. Reed Gusciora - Dist. 15
Asw. Mila Jasey - Dist. 27
Asm. Charles Mainor - Dist. 31
Asm. John McKeon - Dist. 27
Asw. Nancy Muñoz - Dist. 21
Asw. Annette Quijano - Dist. 20
Asw. Maria Rodriguez-Gregg - Dist. 8
Asm. Gary Schaer - Dist. 36
Asw. Holly Schepisi - Dist. 39
Asw. L. Grace Spencer - Dist. 29
Freeholder Sergio Granados - Union County
Freeholder Chris Hudak - Union County

The issue of helping the food insecure and finding a bi-partisan solution to hunger is very deserving of our attention and our time. New Jersey is one of the wealthiest states in America and yet more than one million people in New Jersey suffer from food insecurity, joining the crisis of hunger that plagues millions of Americans. More than 1.1 million people are food insecure (13%), which includes close to 400,000 children (almost 1 in 5) and seniors, and the numbers are growing. It is a critical time to commit to ending hunger.  

Why are we taking a lead on this initiative? Last spring, both the federal and state government severely reduced funds for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) without replacing it. New Jersey is estimated to be the 15th hardest hit state in the nation. Jewish Family Services of Central NJ and MetroWest report that they have already been handling a huge jump in need from the community-at-large. We cannot let this happen. We must stand together – Democrats and Republicans, citizens and advocates – to find a bi-partisan solution to hunger.

Helping those who are hungry and advocating for food assistance is not a new issue for the Jewish community and Federation and its Community Relations Committee. Our CRC parent organizations, Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, advocate on this concern at the national level and the New Jersey State Association is active at the state level.

The Food Stamp Challenge was kicked off on September 8 at a press conference at the JFS Central urban garden in Elizabeth. It was very meaningful to hear many of the legislators thank Federation for providing them the opportunity to learn, have empathy and be leaders. Here are links to the articles:

NJ Pols will eat on $4.20 per day this week,
Why we are taking the food stamp challenge,
Jewish leaders, legislators take 'food stamp challenge, Daily Record
Union County freeholders taking the SNAP challenge, Elizabeth Inside Out

The Challenge will conclude with Hunger is No Game, a brown bag lunch panel on New Jersey’s food assistance crisis, at noon on September 12, at the JCC, 760 Northfield Ave., West Orange You’re invited to attend!  

This initiative is kicking off a year-long END HUNGER campaign to raise awareness of hunger in New Jersey within the Jewish community and the community-at-large, sponsored by Federation and the Jewish Family Services of Central NJ and MetroWest. It is being made possible through a generous grant by Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger.

I urge you to follow the Challenge on social media using the hashtag: #endhungerGMW or on the Facebook event page “GMW Food Stamp Challenge on Facebook.” For more information, visit


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