Most Garden State residents think about helping the hungry during the holidays, but not during July — and that’s a problem.

“There’s 364 days besides Thanksgiving when people need to eat,” said Laura Sodano Beausoleil, Hunger Action coordinator for the Community FoodBank of New Jersey.

She said at this time of year, when a lot of people go on vacation and some companies may slow down their operations, there is not a lot of focus on helping others who are hungry.

“People may not realize it but right here in the Garden State there are 1 million people—  that’s 12 percent of our population — who don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Seventeen percent of children face hunger. That’s one in five kids,” she said. “Last year we gave out more than 44 million pounds of food, the most in our history, all over New Jersey.”

Community FoodBank of NJ
Community FoodBank of NJ

Beausoleil said particularly during the summer, some kids may not be getting the regular lunches they would normally be served while they are in school, because of various federal programs, “so this is definitely an issue, and the Community FoodBank has a number of summer feeding program that reach out to those who need assistance in communities all over New Jersey.”

She stressed “we always need food, whatever time of year it is. The things that are most important to us are the things that are shelf stable, rice and things like that, that people can keep around a little bit, pasta and chunky soup.”

She also pointed out hunger is not only a problem in run-down areas where people are living in poverty.

“You may not know the person in your class, the person sitting next to you at work, the kid that is on your sports team ... (is) hungry because it’s also a shame type thing,” she said. “People are really struggling to make ends meet and very often food is the last thing they will think about because they’re going to pay their bills first, or get sick. Our pantries and soup kitchens help to fill that gap. They are our safety net.”

Beausoleil added monetary donations are always a great way to help, because “we have great buying power, where we can buy trailer-loads of food for our charity partners, our soup kitchens and our pantries, it helps keeps us going so we can help the public even more.”

At the Community FoodBank website, people can learn how they can do food drives, or organize collections in their communities. Kids can get involved with the Students Change Hunger food drive.

“There’s many ways people can get involved in the hunger issue,” she said.

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