What Is Food Insecurity? Definitions, Statistics, and Solutions

Man in wheelchair receiving a box of food from a volunteer. Both are masked

Food insecurity is defined as the lack of consistent access to nutritious food, due to insufficient funds and resources.

Recent data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture finds that 38 million people, including 12 million children, are food insecure in America- with at least 60 million people having turned to food assistance in 2020, a 50% increase from the previous year.

In New Jersey, it is estimated that 800,000 residents struggle with hunger, 200,000 of which are children. In addition, rates of food insecurity increase in South Jersey counties where food insecure individuals are 1 in 9, compared to 1 in 11 statewide.

Seniors receiving a food box from volunteerWhat causes food insecurity?

Though not all food insecure households fall under the poverty line or qualify for SNAP benefits, food insecurity is typically a byproduct of financial constraints. Food-insecure households often have to choose between food, medical bills, utilities, rent, and other basic necessities.

Factors that may affect a household’s level of food security include:

  • Low- wage jobs or retirement incomes that are usually fixed
  • Health problems preventing work while also resulting in high medical bills
  • Lack of affordable housing (From 2019 to 2020, New Jersey cost of living has gone up 6%)
  • Residing in a food desert, geographic areas where residents have limited access to healthy and affordable food, especially for families without reliable transportation.
  • Unexpected life circumstances that put strains on finances, such as accidents and pandemics

If you are facing food insecurity and hunger, you can find a nearby food pantry at our Find Food page.

Who is affected by food insecurity?

  • Families: About 8.4% (1 in 12) of New Jersey households were reported to be food insecure in 2020. 3.1% of which were recognized to experience very low food security, the lowest level of food security, meaning a significant reduction in food intake and repeating disruptions in eating patterns. Furthermore, compared to white households in America, Hispanic households were found to experience double the rate of food insecurity and black households to experience roughly triple. Households led by women of color were also shown to face food insecurity above the national average.
  • Children: About 12 million American children lack adequate access to nutritious food. Access became increasingly more difficult as school lockdowns presented an obstacle to children who receive free meals before, during, and after school through qualified child nutrition programs. In New Jersey, 200,000 children struggle with hunger, equating to about 1 in 10 children- however, the number almost doubles in South Jersey counties where 1 in 6 children face food insecurity, equating to nearly 19,000 children.
  • Seniors: In 2019, 5.2 million seniors in America were reported to be food insecure. Additionally, 1 in 14 seniors agreed that their retirement checks were not enough. Facing hunger, over half of senior food bank and pantry clients have stated that they have previously forgone medical treatment to pay for food- an issue that typically affects seniors the most.
  • Geographic specific communities: Poverty and food deserts tend to be become more prevalent as areas become more rural where there is a lack of transportation, employment opportunities, and lower wages. This can be seen in the three South Jersey counties that CFBNJ serves, Atlantic, Cape May, and Cumberland- where rates of food insecurity are higher than the overall state’s.

Drive-up food distributionHow does CFBNJ help with food insecurity?

CFBNJ’s mission is to fight hunger and poverty in New Jersey by assisting those in need and seeking long -term solutions.

We address hunger holistically by:

  • Purchasing and collecting food and hygiene products to distribute to over 800 community partners, including food pantries, soup kitchens, child and senior feeding programs, and more
  • Getting involved with the local community by partnering with schools, companies, religious institutions, community centers, and more
  • Reaching communities with limited resources with our mobile pantries
  • Providing clients with SNAP (formerly food stamps) application assistance. CFBNJ has helped 3,500 New Jersayans apply for SNAP this year.
  • Addressing hunger as a health issue and providing more fruits and vegetables, nutrition education, and medical screenings to inspire positive lifestyles
  • Providing workforce development job training programs to empower individuals towards a financially sustainable future
  • Working with local, state, and federal government to champion legislation that will have a long-term impact on food insecurity

If you want to get involved with CFBNJ in the fight against hunger, volunteer or give a monetary gift today!