The study released Sunday by the Legal Services of New Jersey Poverty Research Institute concludes that more than two million people in New Jersey are struggling to meet their basic needs. Their numbers have increased since the beginning of the economic recession by more than 300,000.
The poorest county is Passaic, followed by Cumberland, Essex and Hudson, according to the report.
Nationally, the poverty line is defined as about $23,000 for a family of four. But the New Jersey study puts the threshold at double that number because it says New Jersey's cost of living is significantly higher than the national average.
The report also finds that children and Hispanics have suffered the most from increasing poverty.
"Clothes and food. Things that I couldn't give myself, they gave to me and my daughter," resident Danicha Santiago said.
Ms. Santiago found help, a home, and job training at Eva's Village, which is spreading its wings to help a growing need. Food banks are doing the same.
"We've been feeling it for some time in March, the numbers spiked and it hasn't stopped since," Lynne Bruger of CUMAC said.
CUMAC's Food Bank is one of the busiest in the state in what the report says is one of the poorest counties: Passaic.
"We've served more than 21-thousand people on pace to feed 34,000, its usually 32," Bruger said.
CUMAC depends heavily on volunteers like church groups.
"We feel this is what we should be doing, this is what the church is all about," Rosa Williams, church member, said.
"We help at least 100 to a thousand people a week... clothing, shoes," volunteer Deltietra Hopkins said.
The organization also relies on donations from corporations and civic groups. Not just cash, but items like a trunk full of bread from TriBeCa Ovens delivered by a disabled vet.
Food donations typically pour in during the holidays, but those committed to keeping families fed say the season of giving is any day anyone needs a meal.
"September always is difficult because of summer. Kids home from school, not getting lunch there, so we fill the void they didn't have to on a normal basis," Bruger said.
For more information about Eva's Village and CUMAC:
Eva's Village: Phone: (973) 523-6220 ext. 228 http://www.evasvillage.org
CUMAC: Phone: (973-742-5518 http://www.cumacecho.org