‘We came to America so our children could have better opportunities here’

Jeffery Roh, 42, is a widowed father of two living in New Brunswick. He is currently working as a contractor for AM Construction and Remodeling in Piscataway.

This profile is part of the series, “The New Jersey 37” which focuses on residents making up 37 percent of households in the state that cannot afford basic needs such as health care, housing, food, childcare, and transportation.

Xingyu Huang: How has your life been affected by food security in the past?

Jeffery Roh: My family struggled with food security when we first immigrated to this country. We came to America so our children could have better opportunities here. We spent a lot of our savings getting here and as a result we weren’t able to afford some of the comforts other families had. After my wife passed away, it has become more difficult to provide for my sons, but we still manage.

XH: In what ways have your access to food changed since your family moved to this country?

JR: I would say our conditions have improved since we came to this country. We moved from Anseong, Gyeonggi Province [Korea] when my sons were very young. Moving to this country has greatly improved our living conditions and our food access. Before we left, Gyeonggi had a pretty high unemployment rate, as did much of Korea, and the jobs that were available were either temporary or low-wage jobs. Since coming to America I have been able to find stable employment and better provide for my family.

XH: You mentioned earlier that your family struggled with food security after moving to this country. How did your family overcome those struggles?

JR: We received a great deal of help from our church. They helped us find employment and housing. They helped us out significantly in our time of need and I am thankful for that. We are grateful for the support the church provided us, without them it would have been difficult to make it in this country.

XH: Do you currently receive benefits from government food programs like SNAP or WIC? If so, which programs?

JR: We currently have not applied for government assistance. I think we are doing fine without it. Through my job I am able to provide for myself and my sons. There are others who need help more than us, it doesn’t seem fair for us to take that assistance away from the people that are actually in need.

XH: How much does your household spend on food per week, month?

JR: Fortunately, we are now at a point where we don’t really have to worry about food spending. I haven’t been keeping track, but I would say on a monthly basis we spend around $600-$700. We can afford to eat out once in a while. I don’t really have much time for grocery shopping or cooking, so sometime we’ll go out for Mexican or Chinese food if I don’t feel like cooking.