State residents who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, to help feed themselves and their families will have less money to buy food for the next year.
The federal government decreased SNAP benefits this fall. The reduction will last through September 2018.
The reduced allocation ranges from $2 per month for an individual to $16 per month for a household of eight. Each additional person, beyond eight, will have a reduction of $2 per month.
SNAP is the largest nutrition assistance program in the country and provides a hunger safety net for millions of eligible low-income citizens nationwide.
“We have been told that it is a 1 percent across the board reduction in funding, depending on family size,” said Nicole Brossoie, assistant commissioner of public affairs at the New Jersey Department of Human Services. “The reduction varies depending on the size and income of the household; however, the maximum benefit amounts decreased by about 1 percent.”
Any reduction in SNAP benefits affects families who are struggling the most, said Richard J. Uniacke, vice president of the Community FoodBank of New Jersey-Southern Branch, in Egg Harbor Township.
Since July 1, the food pantry has distributed 230 percent more food compared with the same period last year.
Part of this is attributed to more households making use of the food pantry. Eight hundred households used the food pantry a year ago compared with 1,100 households now, but Uniacke also said some families are coming more often during the course of a month to receive food.
As of July, 39,647 individuals received SNAP, including people in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, formerly known as welfare, said J. Forrest Gilmore, Atlantic County Family & Community Development department head.
The breakdown is 21,709 adults and 17,938 children out of 271,000 county residents, Gilmore said.
During the last 10 years, Atlantic County’s SNAP participation rate more than doubled with the addition of 23,000 individuals, according to a county spokeswoman.
The county processed about 8,000 more applications in 2016 than it had in 2011, largely attributed to the impact of the national recession and the closure of several casinos that left nearly 10,000 workers unemployed, a county spokeswoman said.
The highest number of SNAP recipients in the county can be found in Atlantic City, Pleasantville and Egg Harbor Township, Gilmore said.
“Any reductions to individuals below the poverty level has to have a negative impact,” Gilmore said.
Posters received from the state about the SNAP reduction have been put up at Atlantic County One-Stop Career Center in Pleasantville and the Atlantic County office building in Atlantic City.
Information about the SNAP benefits reduction and how to stretch food dollars can be found at the county’s website, atlantic-county.org.
As of July in Cape May County, 4,166 adults and 3,361 children were participating in SNAP for a total of 7,527. The number of county residents was estimated to be 94,430 last year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
“We are disappointed to see a reduction in allocations this year,” Cape May County Freeholder Jeffrey Pierson, who oversees the county Human Services Department, said in a statement.
As of July in Cumberland County, 12,645 adults and 13,633 children were participating in SNAP for a total of 26,278. The number of county residents was estimated to be 153,797 last year, the census said.
As of July in Ocean County, 22,000 adults and 31,348 children were participating in SNAP for a total of 53,348. The number of county residents was estimated to be 592,497, the census said.