May/June 2023

Our impact is significant, not just to individuals but to our local economies as well. When people can reduce the cost of food -- by accessing meals at one of our dining rooms, by advancing their education, by getting a job -- they have funds to reinvest back into our communities, the sustenance they need to excel at work and school, and the resources required to afford things like housing and transportation. We are grateful that the State of New Jersey is leading the way in many respects. Together, our state’s soup kitchens have banded together to think collaboratively and share resources in our approach to fighting hunger. In addition, New Jersey legislators have made big moves to help support those facing food insecurity. As federal emergency pandemic benefits were winding down, including benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), New Jersey passed a law that guarantees families a minimum of $95 per month in SNAP benefits. As of March, the federally established minimum for SNAP benefits is just $23. New Jersey was the first state to raise SNAP benefits for residents. Nearly a half dozen other states are currently working to pass similar measures. Furthermore, New Jersey has created an Office of the Food Security Advocate and named Mark Dinglasan

are hungry lives in your community. New Jersey’s soup kitchens are at the forefront of this crisis, meeting the increasing need with dignity as well as a comprehensive approach to solving a problem impacting our entire nation. Today’s soup kitchens recognize that hunger is complicated. We see that food insecurity is merely a symptom of a greater problem, namely poverty, and we know what works. People come to our dining room first for nourishment, and that’s where they connect with our other programs and services — like case management, education, job assistance, ID services and creative arts — that help people succeed. Often, food is the first step along the path to self-sufficiency, and soup kitchens ensure that everyone has access to the tools they need to improve their quality of life. In reality, this has been the soup kitchen model all along. We have always thought “big” in our response to food insecurity, knowing that the key to solving hunger rests with solving problems like affordable housing, medical and mental healthcare, workforce preparedness and access to education. We welcome people with a “no questions asked” philosophy. And we measure our success not in the number of meals that we serve but by the number of people who no longer need our services.

May/June P 15

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