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Did you know nearly 10% of New Jersey’s population is food insecure?

Posted on March 11, 2024

headshot Alena

By Alena Siddiqui
Data Analyst

For more information on this topic or kids count data, contact Alena at asiddiqui@acnj.org

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Towards the end of 2023, the New Jersey Food Security Initiative (NJFSI) was launched. The initiative is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and is being led by the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC). The purpose of this program is to not only improve food security in the Garden State but to create equitable access for healthier food for all. In 2023, the average rate for food insufficiency in New Jersey was almost 10% according to FRAC. Food insufficiency (or food insecurity) means that households may sometimes or frequently not have enough to eat. When broken down by race and ethnicity, it is apparent that Black and Latinx households are experiencing higher rates of food insufficiency compared to White households.

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Food insecurity has long been an issue in the United States, and as with many other issues, the COVID-19 pandemic shed a light on this long ignored problem. In 2020, an estimated 9%, or 175,830 children in New Jersey were determined to be food insecure (New Jersey Kids Count 2023) and this estimated number has risen to 197,280, or 9.8%, in 2021 (Feeding America).  Food insecurity can be caused by a variety of factors such as unemployment, poverty, lack of affordable housing, and not living in areas that have access to healthy foods.

In 2020, the number
of children in NJ
determined to be
food insecure:


In 2021, that number
increased to


The cost of living in New Jersey is quite high. In 2022, 50% of New Jersey households were spending 30% or more of their income on rent. Many counties reported even higher percentages than the state, as is the case in Passaic (56%) and Salem (55%). It is generally recommended that households aim to spend less than 30% of their income on rent as this allows for the rest of the income to cover other necessary expenses as well as saving for the future.

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The New Jersey Food Security Initiative is currently expected to run for three years. The effort plans to also support already established food insecurity-related initiatives throughout the state by issuing resources, additional funding opportunities, and more. To learn more, visit NJFSI.

Governor’s Proposed FY25 Budget Includes Big Wins for Kids and Families

Posted on February 29, 2024

On February 27, Governor Murphy delivered the annual state budget address to the State Legislature, presenting his proposed spending plan for the Fiscal Year 2025 (FY25) Budget.

The Governor’s budget outlines his key initiatives which include “lowering costs for our families, increasing opportunities in every community, and investing in the lifelong success of every child,” to “ensure New Jersey retains its proud reputation as the best place, anywhere, to raise a family.”

Read the State of NJ Budget in Brief

The $55.9 billion proposed budget includes measures to fully fund the state pension system, fund property tax relief programs, and invest in NJ Transit. The FY25 Budget also consists of essential investments to support children and families.

Highlights of these investments include:

Child Care and Child Tax Credit

  • $3.6 million in wage increases for child care providers
  • $15 million in federal funds to NJ Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) for child care facilities improvements
  • Subsidy payments based on enrollment through December 31, 2024
  • Direct relief to families, including continuation of the Child Tax Credit and the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit

Preschool Aid

  • $124 million to fully fund pre-K programs that started in FY24, including $20 million to expand pre-K programs to new districts


  • $908 million to fully fund school aid formula
  • Continued funding for the Student Teacher Stipend Program
  • $1 million for the High Poverty School District Minority Teacher Recruitment Program
  • Increase funding for Teacher Loan Redemption Program

Hunger and Food Insecurity

  • $30 million to expand access to free school meals, to cover children in families making under 225% of the federal poverty level
  • $2.8 million in State funding for the Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) Program, to provide meals to children who cannot get school meals during the summer
  • Continued funding support for food banks and emergency feeding organizations
  • Continued minimum Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits
  • Support funding to cover grocery delivery fees for WIC participants

Maternal and Child Health

  • Continued investment in the Statewide Universal Newborn Home Nurse Visitation Program, including $4 million increase to expand Family Connects NJ to six more counties
  • $2.2 million for the Maternal and Infant Health Innovation Authority
  • Expand the Cover All Kids Program for an additional 41,000 children

Youth Mental Health

  • $43 million for the NJ Statewide Student Support Services Network (NJ4S)
  • $7.3 million for DCF’s Children’s System of Care which provides care management and connections to mental health services for youth under 21 years of age

Following the budget address, the Legislature will begin the process of reviewing and refining the proposed budget to adopt the final FY25 Budget which must be signed into law by June 30th.

ACNJ will continue to provide updates on the budget and legislative proceedings to ensure that children and families have a voice in this process.

Did you know ARP Stabilization Funds had profound effects on the Child Care Industry and the Families that depend on it?

Posted on February 26, 2024


By Olivia Carrara
Leontine Young Fellow

For more information on this topic, contact Olivia at ocarrara@acnj.org

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ACNJ has always believed that investments in child care would have multiple positive impacts on the child care industry, and now we have more proof! ACNJ has previously established the importance of the child care stabilization grants through surveys and focus groups with child care providers, and now a new study by the White House confirms that, and so much more. During the Covid-19 pandemic, child care employment fell by approximately 30% as numerous child care centers were forced to close their doors. This decline in child care availability forced countless mothers out of the workplace due to their inability to find care for their children. As a remedy, the Biden Administration invested $24 billion in funding for child care providers in March of 2021. These American Rescue Plan (ARP) Stabilization funds were provided in an effort to keep child care centers from closing by issuing grants to assist with paying staff and facility fees, and maintaining the centers through periods of closures and shutdowns. While it was widely believed that these stabilization funds led to an increase in child care access, the new study revealed evidence to in fact affirm this belief, and further suggested that these funds reduced price increases, increased the number of child care workers, raised their wages, and even increased maternal participation in the labor force.

The study published by the White House used comparison groups to identify the impact of the stabilization funds. The study first estimated the effect the funds had on child care prices and found that, on average, families saved roughly $1,200 per year when stabilization funds were provided. Evidence showed, following the disbursement of stabilization funds, that wages for child care workers increased by 10% and child care employment increased by about 7%. The study used this information to conclude that the stabilization funds were primarily spent on decreasing child care prices for families, while simultaneously increasing child care wages and employment.

On average, the ARP Stabilization funds saved families roughly
in child care costs 
per year.

Wages for child care
workers increased by

Child care
by approximately


The study went further to investigate whether the stabilization funds led to changes in the maternal labor force. The researchers examined employment patterns in mothers of young children compared to women with older children and those without children, thereby showing the effects child care access may have on maternal workforce participation. The trends were similar prior to the pandemic and stabilization funds, indicating that the groups can be compared. The stabilization funds led to a 2% increase in labor force participation within 6 months. After two years, it was revealed that the participation of mothers with young children in the labor force increased by approximately 3%. The participation rates did not change for mothers with older children, revealing that an outside influence led to the other increases.

With all of the information gathered from the study, researchers were able to conclude that stabilization funds can have profound effects on child care supply, and increasing child care availability can have impacts on the labor market. The data suggests that the ARP stabilization funds had a benefit-cost ratio of roughly 2:1. The success of the ARP stabilization funds reveal the countless benefits that can result from investing in, and supporting, the child care industry. Funding child care can decrease child care prices, increase wages for child care workers, close the employment gap, and increase the number of mothers in the labor force--all factors that contribute to a better functioning and more successful society.

New Jersey Legislative Fact Sheet 2024 – Early Learning

Posted on February 22, 2024

Did you know that early childhood supports are crucial for a child’s success?

Posted on February 14, 2024

Alena Siddiqui Data Analyst

By Alena Siddiqui
Data Analyst

For more information on this topic or kids count data, contact Alena at asiddiqui@acnj.org

Did You Know Blog Banner

In continuation of the 2024 Race for Results series, this week’s blog post focuses on Early Childhood. An emphasis on a child’s early years is essential to their well-being and their future. As advocates, decision makers, and concerned community members, it is crucial to understand data concerning young ones and how to best address any concerns so that all children have a strong foundation. 

For early childhood, the two indicators that The Annie E. Casey Foundation highlights are the percentage of babies born at a normal birthweight and the percentage of children enrolled in an early childhood program. Focusing first on the percentage of babies born at normal birthweight, this accounted for 92% of babies born in New Jersey in 2021 (Table 1). In comparison with 2016, the percentage of babies born at normal birthweight in New Jersey has not really seen any change even when broken down by race or ethnicity. The report cited that babies born at low birthweights (less than 5.5 pounds) may be at more risk of developing particular health problems than babies born at normal birthweights.

r4r part 2 blog table 1
r4r part 2 blog table 2.2

Based on data collected during 2017 to 2021, 70% of New Jersey’s children ages 3 to 5 were enrolled in nursery school, preschool, or kindergarten compared to 58% nationwide. The Annie E. Casey Foundation notes that early childhood education helps to give children a steady foundation for developing skills and learning. Comparing data from 10 years ago to now, this number was previously 73% (Table 2). Non-hispanic Black or African American children decreased from 77% to 71%, non-Hispanic White children decreased from 76% to 73%, and children of two or more races decreased from 73% to 68% in the past 10 years.

A possible explanation for this decrease is that during the COVID-19 pandemic, many parents chose not to enroll their children in the early childhood programs due to safety concerns, while others chose not due to costs. However, New Jersey has been making progress with more children attending state-funded, full-day preschool. As a result, more families have the opportunity to enroll their kids if they choose to do so.

The 2024 Race for Results report has many other interesting indicators with regard to the well-being of our children. You can learn more about the report and access it here.