‘It is clear that there is more to be done’
This profile is part of the series, “The New Jersey 37,” which focuses on residents making up the 37 percent of households in state that cannot afford basic needs such as health care, housing, food, child care, and transportation.
Daniel Binder, 22, is an undergraduate student attending Rutgers School of Business in New Brunswick. In the past, Binder has worked to combat economic issues facing New Brunswick and Trenton. He recently worked with community programs like the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen, Meals on Wheels, and Peapod deliver services to propose a plan to help fight hunger in the Trenton area.
The proposal, addressed to Michael Rimland of the Community Food Bank of New Jersey, laid out plans to open a second soup kitchen in the Trenton area as well as a home grocery delivery program to service hungry and food insecure individuals in the community.
“It is quite clear that hunger and food insecurity are issues within our world, our nation, and our state,” Binder said. “There is no easy way to fix this problem with the population growing, jobs becoming scarcer, and food becoming more expensive”
Binder has experienced hunger and food insecurity firsthand. As an emigrant from Ukraine, he has an understanding of hunger and its effects.
“In Ukraine, it was just kind of different because you really had nothing. Like in winter, if you wanted a piece of fruit, most of the time you couldn’t get it. If you wanted chicken for dinner, chances are it wasn’t available. I would have roasted chicken maybe once a year and that was an exciting event,” Binder said.
“It was difficult to have all the luxuries you have here or even conceive the fact you have these things there. It wasn’t bad, it was just very different.”
Hunger and poverty are closely linked. According to the 2016 Assisted Limited Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE) report, one in eight in New Jersey struggle with hunger, and over a million individuals live in food insecure households.
Families often will sacrifice food spending in order to pay for other expenses. The report found that out of those who reported as being food insecure, 75 percent said they had to choose between paying for food or for utilities and food or medicine, and only half were eligible for government support or food stamps.
However, Binder said it’s vital to understand the difference between hunger and food insecurity.”
“Those who are hungry do not have enough food to feel satisfied on a daily basis. They do not have enough food to live a healthy and nourished lifestyle. Those who are food insecure, on the other hand, might not be hungry at all,” but have no regular, secure source of food.
Help from others
In New Jersey, non-profit organizations and churches help reduce the instances of hunger every day. These organizations rely on individual donations and foundations for the majority of their funding. These organizations utilize their financial resources to fund programs such as soup kitchens, bagged lunch programs, and delivery services.
“Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK) has set such an amazing example already of how the solution should be approached,” Binder said. “They have been around for about thirty years and continue to feed those in need and save lives”
With the help of its volunteers, TASK serves over 4,800 meals every week of the year. Through their programs they offer services beyond providing food, such as educational tutoring for adults that are seeking computer skills.
Despite the efforts of these organizations, Binder said he often sees soup kitchens overcrowded, and people not having enough assistance through funding to not go hungry.
“Some are ineligible for programs such as food stamps, and some cannot make it to a soup kitchen in time for the meal. As much assistance as there is, the way it is run still seems to skip over certain deserving people. There lies the problem,” he said.
And households struggling to meet ends meet are rising in New Jersey. According to the ALICE report, the percentage of households with income under the ALICE threshold increased from 2007 to 2014 by 9 percent.
While food normally accounts for 11 percent of the family budget, for many ALICE households, 11 percent of what they earn is insufficient to afford even the USDA Thrifty Food Plan.
“This is why I proposed to expand the number of soup kitchens in Trenton we are helping addressing the issue, but it is clear that there is more to be done. Despite all the good work the people at TASK have done, the truth of the matter is there are still people in Trenton who don’t know where their next meal is coming from,” Binder said.
“Moving forward we need to expand the current programs so that they are able to better serve the community.”