HUNGER

In Monmouth County—one of the most expensive areas of the state, especially in terms of housing costs—a person making the minimum wage would have to work 18 hours a day, 7 days a week to afford an average two-bedroom rental.

While personal income among the rich has increased, so has poverty among the poorer segments of the population, rising from 5% to 6.3% in Monmouth County during the decade from 1990 to 2000. Poverty rates among children have risen significantly in the last decade—from 6.5% to 9.9%.

Over 21,000 children receive food from pantries, soup kitchens and other meal programs. In 2013, approximately one in six people were food insecure, the highest number ever recorded. In 2009, the Food Bank served 51,000 children with emergency food, compared with “only” about 19,000 in 2005. Of all households receiving emergency food in Monmouth and Ocean Counties, almost half (45%) of those with children experienced hunger during the course of the year.

CHILDHOOD OBESITY / DIABETES

Food-insecure children are especially vulnerable to obesity because they face unique challenges to adopting a healthy lifestyle. Limited resources and lack of access to healthy, affordable foods is pervasive in low-income neighborhoods.

Also contributing to the correlation between food insecurity and childhood obesity are

• fewer opportunities for physical activity
• cycles of food deprivation and overeating
• high levels of stress
• greater exposure to marketing of obesity-promoting products
• limited access to health care

Childhood obesity affects at least one out of five children in the United States, and the number of overweight children continues to grow. Over the last two decades, this number has increased by more than 50%, and the number of “extremely’ overweight children has nearly doubled.

 

VOCATIONAL TRAINING FOR SPECIAL NEEDS STUDENTS

Autism Spectrum Disorder is a neurological developmental disorder that affects a person’s social communication and interaction. As its name implies, expression can fall across a “spectrum” ranging from mild to severe. While one person may have symptoms that make it difficult to complete daily self-care, another may have only mild functional or social difficulties.

We have yet to discover why it affects so many in our community, and why the incidence continues to grow. The Centers for Disease Control recently released a report showing 1 in 68 children nationally is identified on the ASD with New Jersey having the highest rates, 1 in 45 (and 1 in 28 boys.) That means about 1% of the population in the U.S.—or some three million people—is thought to have an autism-spectrum disorder.

What we DO know is that autism, like most developmental and congenital disorders does not just affect children. A child born with a special needs will grow into an adult with special needs, an adult who is likely to live as long as his peers, but have difficulty living independently and with dignity. According to a study recently quoted by the Wall Street Journal, “Among young adults (with autism) between 21 and 25 years old, only half have ever held a paid job outside the home.”

While we look for a cure we must also look for ways to integrate our special needs citizens into the center of our communities. And we know that there is increasing evidence that gardening is a place to begin.