DefinitionFood insecurity refers to the USDA's measure of lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members and limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods.
Food insecure households are not necessarily food insecure all the time. Food insecurity may reflect a household's need to make trade-offs between important basic needs, such as housing or medical bills, and purchasing nutritionally adequate foods.
NumeratorEstimated number of persons living in food-insecure households
DenominatorNumber of persons in population
Data Interpretation IssuesFood insecurity is based on a series of questions on the U.S. Current Population Survey called the "Core Food Security Module." The module asks about a variety of food security conditions (e.g., worried food would run out, could not afford balanced meal, did not eat for a whole day because they could not afford enough food, etc.). Food insecurity was measured by the number of food insecure conditions experienced in the household and the frequency with which each condition was experienced in that household. "Food Insecurity" includes households with low and very low food security. For more information, visit the USDA Economic Research Service, [https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-security-in-the-united-states.aspx Food Security in the United States] web page.
Why Is This Important?Inconsistent access to adequate amounts of nutritious food can have a negative impact on the health of individuals of all ages. In the US, adults in food insecure households are much more likely than food secure adults to have hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic health problems. Although food insecurity is harmful to any individual, it can be particularly devastating among children because they are more vulnerable to potential long-term consequences for their future physical and mental health and academic achievement.
Healthy People Objective: Reduce household food insecurity and in doing so reduce hungerU.S. Target: 6.0 percent
How Are We Doing?The USDA estimates that in 2019, about 762,530 people, including 192,580 children, in New Jersey were food insecure. That means 1 in 12 individuals (8.6%) and 1 in 10 children (9.9%) live in homes without consistent access to adequate food for everyone to live healthy, active lives.
The food insecurity rate among all New Jersey residents as well as among children decreased between 2011 and 2019, as did national rates. Cape May, Cumberland, and Hudson Counties had the highest rates for all ages (11.3%, 11.3%, and 11.1%, respectively) and were the only three New Jersey counties with a rate above the US rate (10.9%). Cumberland County had the highest child food insecurity rate (16.7%) and only four other New Jersey counties (Essex, Salem, Atlantic, and Cape May) surpassed the national rate of 14.6%.
How Do We Compare With the U.S.?New Jersey had the 4th lowest overall and 3rd lowest child food insecurity rates among U.S. states in 2019.
What Is Being Done?The [https://www.state.nj.us/humanservices/dfd/programs/njsnap/ Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] (SNAP) and the [https://nj.gov/health/fhs/wic/ Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children] (WIC) play a critical role in helping low-income families break out of the cycle of hunger and diet-related disease. Both programs augment households' food budgets, allowing them to purchase more healthful foods, and provide nutrition education to participants.
The [https://www.state.nj.us/agriculture/divisions/fn/ New Jersey Department of Agriculture] also administers several food distribution programs and child and adult nutrition programs.