NJ food banks, pantries cite greater need with colder weather
When the temperatures go down, the need goes up for help from food banks and pantries throughout New Jersey. Unfortunately, it's also a time of year when donations are lighter than normal.
The Garden State is dotted with struggling families who are making the same decision every year during the coldest winter months - pay the utility bills to keep warm, or pay for food to properly feed the family.
Carlos Rodriguez, executive director at the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties in Neptune, said 58 percent of the families served are faced with the difficult "heat or eat" choice.
"This is always a time of year when we encourage folks to remember that hunger is a yearlong problem," Rodriguez said. "When the weather dips and everyone's trying to bundle up, it's harder for us to bring food in."
The FoodBank serves an estimated 131,000 people through partnering with hundreds of agencies, one of them being the Reformation Community Food Pantry in West Long Branch.
The pantry's director, Debbie Keszler, was one of many "shoppers" inside the Neptune facility Tuesday, grabbing supplies for their distribution sessions.
"I'm picking up meat because we ran out of meat on Saturday," Keszler said.
She cited an uptick in the number of clients needing assistance during the colder weather.
Julia Kathan, director of public relations and communications with the Community FoodBank of New Jersey in Hillside, said donations are definitely lower now, compared to the more active months of November and December.
"Things do tend to slow down," she said. "We're not always top of mind for people this time of year."
The weather can also present obstacles for logistics at New Jersey food banks. Kathan said certain snow events produce unsafe driving conditions and operations are essentially halted, but given a solid forecast in advance, the bank can double-down on its efforts to distribute enough food and drink to cover any lost business hours.