NJ legislation addresses food insecurity as emergency federal SNAP benefits end

April 2, 2023 at 11:29 a.m.
NJ legislation addresses food insecurity as emergency federal SNAP benefits end
NJ legislation addresses food insecurity as emergency federal SNAP benefits end

By Mary Clifford Morrell | Contributing Editor

Elaine Brown, 87, lives alone in Burlington. For many years, she has made monthly visits to the food pantry run by the Diocese of Trenton’s Catholic Charities agency in Burlington County.

“The cost of living today is out of control. You need every penny,” she said. “I just went shopping and a dozen eggs cost almost $5. Having SNAP helps me tremendously.”
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In August of 2022, just months before the Emergency Federal SNAP Allotments for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program came to an end, Catholic Charities’ SNAP Outreach Coordinator Nathalia Soto helped Brown register for benefits. “I didn’t think I’d qualify,” said Brown. “But I am so glad I did.”

Elaine is one of thousands across the state who would have struggled when emergency pandemic allotments ended at the close of February, if not for new legislation passed in New Jersey increasing SNAP benefits to a monthly minimum of $95, up from $50, beginning March 1. The federal government minimum is $23.

According to information posted on the state’s website, this new legislation makes New Jersey the first state in the nation to ensure families have more support to keep putting food on the table.

Knowing that the state has increased these important benefits at a time when the federal government has cut them “is huge for New Jersey families,” said Brenda Rascher, diocesan executive director, Office of Catholic Social Services.

“SNAP benefits, formerly called Food Stamps, have long been a vital resource for families struggling to pay all their bills and put food on the table.  Food pantries can only do so much. With inflation and the pandemic, so many more families have needed help.  So, the SNAP benefits are even more important,” Rascher stressed.

Food Insecurity Growing

“Access to healthy food is a key social determinant of health – one that directly impacts a person’s well-being and quality of life,” said Marlene Laó-Collins, executive director, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton. “Over the past three years, we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of people and families who are food insecure. We know people are struggling to feed their families.”

Statistics show that in 2022, there were 58,753 visits to Catholic Charities’ three food pantries located in Burlington, Lakewood and Trenton – a 26% increase over 2021.

“Our Community Services team is dedicated to getting individuals and families who qualify for SNAP enrolled in the program,” said Laó-Collins. “We have a SNAP Outreach Coordinator whose job it is to educate the public about this benefit and help people determine whether or not they are eligible.”

 Mount Carmel Guild, Trenton, a diocesan-supported agency that helps those in need reports a similar situation.

“Food insecurity is very large within our community,” stressed Richard Ferreira, Mount Carmel director of Community Support. “The Guild serves over 600-650 households. That equates to 1500-1700 adults and children that come in to receive food from us and, on top of that, we adjusted our policies in regard to serving the community.

“Our program used to serve individuals once per month and now we are serving persons once per week because of the need in our community.”

Ferreira acknowledged, “The (SNAP funding increase) is well received within our community … not having that benefit after the pandemic was perhaps the biggest fear that many of our families had.”

Partial, but Welcome Solution

Kelly Slaughter, a care receiver from Mount Carmel Guild, Trenton, expressed some relief at the legislation, saying, “I’m glad something was done by the state to at least try to sustain people. The issue I’m having, and I think most people are grappling with this, is that food prices are continuing to go up and so while anything is most welcome and helpful, we’re just still struggling.”

With food insecurity just one of a number of challenges, Mary Inkrot, executive director of Mount Carmel Guild, pointed out, “Most of our households are struggling to meet their budgets and they often must make hard decisions about what bills to pay such as their electricity or car, and so they know they can count on us for food and that’s part of their budget planning.”

Inkrot stressed that food donations are always welcome at Mount Carmel, especially as “the food bank system has a two-month lag time, so if our numbers increase the amount of food won’t increase to meet those numbers for two months.”

Ferreira agreed. “Food is a number one priority here at the Guild. It is our largest service, and we would like the community to know that we do collaborate with other entities such as Catholic Charities that does SNAP enrollment twice per month. When individuals who come in and ask for the opportunity to apply for SNAP, we facilitate that referral over to Catholic Charities.”

As part of their focus to get families signed up for the SNAP benefit program, CCDT has posted a billboard at a centrally-located intersection in Trenton with a QR code to take people to a webpage where they can leave their contact information.

They also regularly post about the program on their social media accounts and just completed a two-month digital advertising campaign with Townsquare Media encouraging enrollment.

Catholic Charities Diocese of Trenton SNAP Outreach Coordinator Nathalia Soto is available at [email protected].

Mount Carmel Guild is located at 73 North Clinton Avenue, Trenton, NJ 08609; [email protected].


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Elaine Brown, 87, lives alone in Burlington. For many years, she has made monthly visits to the food pantry run by the Diocese of Trenton’s Catholic Charities agency in Burlington County.

“The cost of living today is out of control. You need every penny,” she said. “I just went shopping and a dozen eggs cost almost $5. Having SNAP helps me tremendously.”
[[In-content Ad]]

In August of 2022, just months before the Emergency Federal SNAP Allotments for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program came to an end, Catholic Charities’ SNAP Outreach Coordinator Nathalia Soto helped Brown register for benefits. “I didn’t think I’d qualify,” said Brown. “But I am so glad I did.”

Elaine is one of thousands across the state who would have struggled when emergency pandemic allotments ended at the close of February, if not for new legislation passed in New Jersey increasing SNAP benefits to a monthly minimum of $95, up from $50, beginning March 1. The federal government minimum is $23.

According to information posted on the state’s website, this new legislation makes New Jersey the first state in the nation to ensure families have more support to keep putting food on the table.

Knowing that the state has increased these important benefits at a time when the federal government has cut them “is huge for New Jersey families,” said Brenda Rascher, diocesan executive director, Office of Catholic Social Services.

“SNAP benefits, formerly called Food Stamps, have long been a vital resource for families struggling to pay all their bills and put food on the table.  Food pantries can only do so much. With inflation and the pandemic, so many more families have needed help.  So, the SNAP benefits are even more important,” Rascher stressed.

Food Insecurity Growing

“Access to healthy food is a key social determinant of health – one that directly impacts a person’s well-being and quality of life,” said Marlene Laó-Collins, executive director, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton. “Over the past three years, we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of people and families who are food insecure. We know people are struggling to feed their families.”

Statistics show that in 2022, there were 58,753 visits to Catholic Charities’ three food pantries located in Burlington, Lakewood and Trenton – a 26% increase over 2021.

“Our Community Services team is dedicated to getting individuals and families who qualify for SNAP enrolled in the program,” said Laó-Collins. “We have a SNAP Outreach Coordinator whose job it is to educate the public about this benefit and help people determine whether or not they are eligible.”

 Mount Carmel Guild, Trenton, a diocesan-supported agency that helps those in need reports a similar situation.

“Food insecurity is very large within our community,” stressed Richard Ferreira, Mount Carmel director of Community Support. “The Guild serves over 600-650 households. That equates to 1500-1700 adults and children that come in to receive food from us and, on top of that, we adjusted our policies in regard to serving the community.

“Our program used to serve individuals once per month and now we are serving persons once per week because of the need in our community.”

Ferreira acknowledged, “The (SNAP funding increase) is well received within our community … not having that benefit after the pandemic was perhaps the biggest fear that many of our families had.”

Partial, but Welcome Solution

Kelly Slaughter, a care receiver from Mount Carmel Guild, Trenton, expressed some relief at the legislation, saying, “I’m glad something was done by the state to at least try to sustain people. The issue I’m having, and I think most people are grappling with this, is that food prices are continuing to go up and so while anything is most welcome and helpful, we’re just still struggling.”

With food insecurity just one of a number of challenges, Mary Inkrot, executive director of Mount Carmel Guild, pointed out, “Most of our households are struggling to meet their budgets and they often must make hard decisions about what bills to pay such as their electricity or car, and so they know they can count on us for food and that’s part of their budget planning.”

Inkrot stressed that food donations are always welcome at Mount Carmel, especially as “the food bank system has a two-month lag time, so if our numbers increase the amount of food won’t increase to meet those numbers for two months.”

Ferreira agreed. “Food is a number one priority here at the Guild. It is our largest service, and we would like the community to know that we do collaborate with other entities such as Catholic Charities that does SNAP enrollment twice per month. When individuals who come in and ask for the opportunity to apply for SNAP, we facilitate that referral over to Catholic Charities.”

As part of their focus to get families signed up for the SNAP benefit program, CCDT has posted a billboard at a centrally-located intersection in Trenton with a QR code to take people to a webpage where they can leave their contact information.

They also regularly post about the program on their social media accounts and just completed a two-month digital advertising campaign with Townsquare Media encouraging enrollment.

Catholic Charities Diocese of Trenton SNAP Outreach Coordinator Nathalia Soto is available at [email protected].

Mount Carmel Guild is located at 73 North Clinton Avenue, Trenton, NJ 08609; [email protected].

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