Hunger & Coronavirus Crisis
Addressing Hunger During Outbreak
There have been significant state and federal responses aimed at addressing hunger during the COVID-19 outbreak. While there is still more to do, here is the latest info about state and federal response to help schools feed students during this closure, help people keep and apply for food assistance and increase funding for these programs.
Yes, many New Jersey districts are providing meals to families through distribution sites or by delivering to homes. Service varies from district to district. Parents and other caregivers should contact their local school for information on meal distribution.
View Rutgers’ guide to feeding children during unplanned school closings.
It’s unlikely that summer programs for children will operate normally this summer. To help communities deal with this and feed children, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has extended three key waivers that had been put in place for the unplanned school closings. The following waivers are now good through August 31:
Non-Congregate Feeding, which allows meals to be served outside of group settings. Meals can be distributed at a site where families pick up the meals, as well as be delivered to children’s homes.
Meal Service Times, which provides flexibility to when meals are served.
USDA also extended the “Meal Pattern Flexibility’’ from May 31 to June 30 . This provides flexibility in meeting federal nutrition requirements. USDA will continue to evaluate its need as the situation evolves.
The nationwide and state waivers have been critical in supporting families that rely on free and reduced-price school meals during the school year. Hunger Free New Jersey is working with state and national partners to enact further waivers so communities can reach all kids in need.
This allows states to provide SNAP (food stamps) benefits to children who qualify for free or reduced-price school meals. On May 12, New Jersey received federal approval to provide this aid to nearly 600,000 New Jersey children.
For families already receiving SNAP, additional benefits will simply be added to their cards. For families not currently receiving SNAP, a card will be mailed to their home. The state expects to have those mailed by June, state officials have said.
Families do not need to apply or take any steps to receive this assistance.
The NJ Department of Human Services has taken several steps to make the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, aka food stamps) and other assistance more readily available:
- Waiving the interview requirement,
- Waiving signatures on hardcopy applications,
- Providing additional benefits to households,
- Granting a six-month exemption to recertify for people already receiving SNAP,
- Exempting SNAP and WorkFirst New Jersey recipients from attending work or training programs.
New SNAP Applicants
With county welfare offices largely closed to the public, the New Jersey Department of Human Services is encouraging residents in need to apply for SNAP food assistance or cash assistance online at NJHelps.org. Needed documentation (i.e. pay stubs) or other paperwork can be mailed or faxed. Some county welfare agencies are providing drop boxes outside the offices where applicants can leave documentation.
SNAP provides monthly benefits through Electronic Debt Transfers (EBTs) for recipients to buy food at grocery stores and other retail outlets. For more info, visit NJSNAP.org.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance for Women Infants and Children, commonly known as WIC, is providing flexibilities to help pregnant women, mothers of young children, infants and toddlers receive assistance. The New Jersey Department of Health, which administers WIC, is has waived requirements that people physically come to the office for initial approvals and re-certifications.
All local agencies are issuing three months worth of checks to participants. Agencies are either mailing those checks or establishing a pick-up time, which is conducted with social distancing in mind.