JBJ Soul Foundation

Rebuilding pride in one’s self and one’s community – one SOUL at a time.

NJ Soul of Hunger

In 2015, the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation has worked with the New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition (NJAHC) on a program called NJ Soul of Hunger (NJSOH). The goal of the program has been to educate the public and policy makers about the broad scope of hunger in New Jersey by using real stories and voices of those experiencing hunger first hand.

NJ Soul of Hunger

In collaboration with NJAHC partner agencies across the state, participants were recruited and trained to be NJSOH photographers/advocates.  Each participant was given a camera and asked to document through the lenses what hunger meant to them in their everyday lives.  Participants in the program ranged in age, race, gender, and lived in different regions of the state.  Over the course of the year, NJSOH photographers/advocates had their images featured in exhibits throughout the state; spoke at press events and a statewide poverty conference; met with federal, state and local elected officials; and testified at a state budget hearing. The NJ Soul of Hunger is a complement to the advocacy work of the NJ Anti-Hunger Coalition, promoting and supporting NJAHC’s anti-hunger policy and programmatic recommendations to address the issue.

Several of the NJSOH photographers have emerged as outspoken advocates on the issues of hunger and poverty and their voices have had a major impact on how the public and policy makers understand these problems and their potential solutions.  NJSOH photographers/advocates who participated in the project have expressed that it has been a positive, empowering experience for them.  Photographers were connected with resources when needed (such as SNAP application assistance) and a few of the photographers were offered additional help specific to their needs as a result of the exhibits.

Below is a calendar of NJ Soul of Hunger events and corresponding media coverage over the course of the grant year.  For additional images and information on exhibits and events, visit the NJ Soul of Hunger Facebook page.

NJ Soul of Hunger: A Year in Review

December 2014-December 2015

December 15, 2015 –Soul of Hunger launch: Press Event at the State House

NJAHC hosted a press event to highlight hunger and NJAHC’s legislative agenda; over 12 state legislators attended, as well as Chef Tom Colicchio; legislative sponsorship obtained for 3 anti-hunger bills (links to press coverage listed below). SOH photographer Robert spoke at the event and his photos were featured in an exhibit in the State House. Robert was also approached by Senator Lesniak to discuss the impact of casino closures in Atlantic City. As a result, Senator Lesniak issued a press release, calling on the Governor to address hunger in Atlantic City

Press coverage of event:

NorthJersey.com

NJ.com

January 2015 – Soul of Hunger Photo Exhibit in Bergen County

NJAHC coordinated a month long photo exhibit featuring images taken for the first SOH event (in 9/2013) and new images at the Puffin Arts and Cultural Center as part of a multi-media, educational exhibit on poverty and hunger in NJ. Over the course of the month, it is estimated that over 200 people visited the exhibit.

March 24, 2015NJ State Assembly budget hearing

SOH advocate, Shanee testified with NJAHC at a state budget hearing regarding the need for increase funding for Section 8, EITC and other anti-poverty programs. She shared her personal experience with these programs as a pathway out of poverty.

April 14, 2015 – Press event in Camden

NJAHC held a press event at St Andrews food pantry in Camden, featuring SOH advocate Stella, to educate the public and policy makers about the continued threat to SNAP. Two state legislators representing the district, as well as two City Council members were in attendance. As a result, the NJ Senate and Assembly issued resolutions stating that SNAP should be protected against any cuts on the federal level.

Press coverage of event:

NJ.com

CBS Philly

Courier Post

NBC 10 (Pre-Event Coverage, 2 minute segment)

June 22, 2015 – Meeting with Congressman Frelinghuysen

Soul of Hunger photographer/advocate, Megan, joined NJAHC in a meeting with the Congressman to discuss the importance of child nutrition programs and to advocate for passage of a strong child nutrition bill. In addition, Megan spoke with the Congressman about SNAP and the need to vote against any cuts to the program. Christine, another SOH photographer, provided a written appeal to the Congressman about her families’ struggle with hunger and the need for strong federal nutrition programs.

August 21, 2015 – NJ Soul of Hunger: The Atlantic City Story

NJAHC coordinated a press event and kick off of a month long exhibit at the Noyes Arts Garage in Atlantic City to raise awareness about the impact of casino closures on that region and the increase in hunger and poverty as a result. The Mayor of AC attended, along with over 30 members of the public. The exhibit featured photos by 8 SOH photographers, three of whom, Shakir, Gary and Robert spoke at the press event. A producer from PBS attended and has since interviewed several of the SOH photographers for a documentary series on poverty. As a result of the exhibit, a few of the photographers continue to work with NJAHC and are planning a second showing of the exhibit in Mays Landing in April 2016.

Press coverage of the event:

Press of Atlantic City

September 27, 2015 – NJ Soul of Hunger: Childhood Hunger in Our State

NJAHC coordinated a SOH exhibit at a large Unitarian congregation in Bergen County focusing specifically on childhood hunger in NJ (featuring photos taken by and of children who are impacted by hunger in NJ) and call to action on the issue. Over 100 congregants were educated on childhood hunger and participated in a call in day to Congress to support strong Child Nutrition reauthorization. NJ State Legislator, Tim Eustace was in attendance and committed to support state legislation to address childhood hunger as well.

October 13, 2015 – Anti-Poverty Network of NJ Statewide Summit 

As a result of the SOH project, the Anti-Poverty Network invited SOH photographers/advocates to speak on an expert panel at the annual statewide summit. SOH advocates Megan and Shakir shared the dais with former Governor McGreevey and state Assembly Speaker Prieto and shared their personal experience with hunger and economic struggle, as well as possible solutions, to educate the over 300 people in attendance.

Press coverage of the event:

NJTVNews

October 30, 2015 – NJ Soul of Hunger: Three Years After Sandy

NJAHC partnered with the Peoples Pantry in Toms River to coordinate a SOH exhibit highlighting the problem of hunger, three years after Super Storm Sandy. Photos in the exhibit were taken by and of people who were directly impacted by the storm and still struggle to put food on the table. The Mayor of Toms River spoke at the event, along with SOH photographer, Tami, whose photos were featured in the exhibit.

Press coverage of the event:

NJ.com

NJTVNews

December 8, 2015 – NJ Soul of Hunger: The Hidden Reality of Hunger Among Seniors and the Disabled

NJAHC coordinated a SOH exhibit and press event at the JCC in West Orange in partnership with the Jewish Federation and the JCC to highlight the issue of hunger among seniors and people with disabilities in our state. State Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver spoke at the event, along with Mary, a senior and SOH photographer. NJAHC introduced three specific legislative actions that the state can take to address senior hunger. As a result, Assemblywoman Oliver and Assemblywoman Huttle will be involved in helping to get sponsorship for legislation. The exhibit was seen by hundreds of JCC members over a two week period, and one of the photographers, Adrienne was offered a donation from someone who was particularly moved by her images and story.