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Holidays Present More Challenges For Food Pantries [AUDIO]

The outcry of support following the Super Storm Sandy has been unprecedented, but with shelters and food pantries contended with post storm recover they also have to plan for the Thanksgiving and holiday season.

Foodbank of Monmouth & Ocean Counties
Empty shelves at the Foodbank of Monmouth & Ocean Counties facility in Neptune. (Ilya Hemlin, Townsquare Media NJ)

The Food Bank of Monmouth and Ocean County has been at the ground zero of relief, serving two of the worst hit counties. The Bank’s director Carlos Rodriguez says they have to have a boots on the ground approach year round, but especially during situations like this.

“Yeah we have to shift gears to do two things, respond to the immediate disaster but also make sure the ongoing distribution completely happens.”

One of the biggest challenges they face is trying to identify where the families who are in need of their services are located. Rodriguez points out prior to the storm one in ten families relied on the Food Bank’s services; however now those families could be displaced, so the challenge becomes one of logistics.

The Food Bank is working with a network of 260 local charities along with industry and government agencies , to try and figure out what the landscape look like.

“Where are these new pockets of need, where has there been a shift in demographics? Folks in the Bayshore area, some of them might be back home but are they going to be able to have Thanksgiving? Do we need to have a separate meal set up a different facility? So we need to work through a lot of those logistics.”

Rodriguez says they operate year round, but after the disaster the question becomes “How many more folks are we serving?”

“We need to keep our operations running year round, and we need to have a ready operation that can respond to any disaster, and unfortunately this is probably not going to be the last one.”

He adds this could be the first real meal many residents have at the shore.

Sandy saw thousands of people donate canned food, non perishables, and other supplies, so much so there’s concern there could be a “donation fatigue”. Rodriguez understands that people could have already stretched themselves monetarily, but he says there’s always ways people can help. He notes their website has opportunities to volunteer, and he adds it’s important to remember that no donation is too small.

“Even ten dollars can help us support thirty meals, so if you have limited means, every little bit counts. And it gives us the flexibility to really shift and figure out what the immediate needs are with food industry partners and bulk purchases. ”

Adding that sometimes they just need to pay for transportation of a semi full of foodstuffs.

“[A monetary donation] We can bring a tractor trailer full of trimmings for Thanksgiving versus the very generous purchase trunk full of items a family can give us.”

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