If you cannot afford to buy the food you need for yourself and your family, there is help. Below is information on government food programs and suggestions for finding help from private organizations in your community.
The income limit for the Food Stamp/SNAP Program is higher than for many other assistance programs. Even if you are not eligible for cash, housing, or medical assistance, you may still be able to get food stamps/SNAP. The website has a self-screening tool you can use to see if you qualify for food stamps/SNAP and other programs. There is also an online application that you may fill out. After you complete the application, a food stamp/SNAP worker will contact you to arrange for a face-to-face interview. If it is a hardship for you to get to the welfare office, you may ask to be interviewed over the telephone. If you do not have Internet access, you may visit your county welfare office to complete an application, or call the national number, 1-800-687-9512.
Note: The stimulus package recently approved by the federal government includes funds for an increase in food stamp/SNAP benefits. (The program’s name has changed to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, nationally—but it is still referred to as the Food Stamp/SNAP Program in New Jersey.) Beginning in April 2009, benefits will automatically increase for those already receiving them. The amount of the increase and the total maximum allotment are shown in the chart on this page. The minimum benefit will increase to $16 per month.
Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Services
WIC provides healthy food to women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have recently (within six months) given birth. It also provides infant formula and food to infants and children under the age of five. To qualify for WIC, you must have a health risk and have income under a certain amount. A self-screening tool for WIC is also available on the NJ Helps website, or you can visit the WIC website for more information.
Food Pantries and Soup Kitchens
There are many private community programs that offer non-perishable food or cooked meals to those in need. Rules vary, so it is best to call first for information about hours and guidelines. Two websites list these programs by county. It is worth checking both lists because, as some programs close and new programs open, you might find something on one list that is not included on the other.
- End Hunger NJ: End Hunger NJ is a division of the New Jersey Department of Human Services. This website has a searchable database of food pantries and soup kitchens, which can be searched by town or zip code. It also has a wide range of other information and resources related to hunger and nutrition.
- New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition: NJAHC is a nonprofit organization committed to ending hunger in New Jersey. This website includes information on food pantries listed by county. It is a not searchable, like the End Hunger site, but it includes more information about each program, such as what other services are offered and the hours of operation.
This article originally appeared in the April 2009 issue of Looking Out for Your Legal Rights®.