Food Lines a Mile Long in America’s Second-Wealthiest State

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EGG HARBOR, N.J. — Jean Wickham’s two sons are in college. Her husband has worked at the same New Jersey casino for 36 years.

She recently felt secure enough to trade her full-time casino job for two part-time gigs that came with an expectation of bigger tips.

Then the coronavirus shut down every casino in Atlantic City and instantly put more than 26,000 people out of work — 10 percent of the county’s population.

“I’ve worked since I was 14 years old,” said Ms. Wickham, 55, a card dealer. “We’ve never had to rely on anyone else.”

Until now.

The Wickhams’ minivan was one of thousands of vehicles that snaked as far as the eye could see one morning last week in Egg Harbor, N.J., 10 miles west of Atlantic City. The promise of fresh produce and a 30-pound box of canned food, pasta and rice from a food bank drew so many cars that traffic was snarled for nearly a mile in three directions, leading to five accidents, the police said.

“I’m just afraid I’m going to lose my house,” said Ms. Wickham, who lives in Egg Harbor. “I feel like a failure right now.”

In more than 40 percent of households in New Jersey, at least one person is out of work because of the coronavirus pandemic, a Monmouth University poll released on Monday found.

Many suddenly unemployed workers in one of the nation’s wealthiest states say they have been pushed to the edge of hunger, forced to ask for help for the first time in their lives.

Lines at a food pantry in Summit, an affluent commuter town in northern New Jersey, stretch around the block every Tuesday evening. A food bank on the Jersey Shore has started a text service to give new users a discreet way to seek help. – READ MORE

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