As we head into the summer months, an estimated 800,000 New Jersey residents are food insecure and food banks and pantries across the Garden State are struggling mightily to keep up with rising demand.

Karen Leies, the vice president of resource development at the Community Food Bank of New Jersey, said with a fuel budget that has basically doubled “and the rising inflation prices on the cost of food that we purchase, and ongoing supply chain issues, it all affects our ability to get food into the hands of those in need."

She noted donations of food and money tend to decrease when the weather turns warmer, and this year is no exception, which makes a tough situation even more difficult.

“Summer specifically is the time of year when we see an increased need for food assistance, when kids are out of school they lose access to those school meals that they and their families rely on.”

A challenging time

Triada Stampas, the CEO and president of Fulfill, the food bank serving Monmouth and Ocean counties, said things are very challenging right now for her organization.

“We are facing inflation unlike any seen in recent history, we’re seeing the cost of fuel and the cost of food are just a double whammy,” she said.

Fulfill truck
Photo provided by Fulfill
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She pointed out that many of the assistance programs that began when the pandemic started have now ended and that has resulted in an increased demand for food assistance.

“You can skimp on food, you can’t skimp on paying your landlord rent, you can’t skimp on paying the utility company to keep the lights on,” she said.

Supply chain issues persist

Leies pointed out that “food donations are down because of supply chain issues, so we are purchasing more at a higher price and we still have a lack of some inventory.

Stampas said there has also been a drop-off in volunteers and donations at Fulfill “from retailers, from individuals because of both food costs and because of supply chain issues that continue."

She said it’s important to remember that “hunger is an issue that lasts all year round, and the need that exists in the summer isn’t matched by the donor interests that we see.”

A drop-off in donations

Leies said during the holidays and times of crisis, like when the pandemic began, people are more inclined to help food organizations, but not at other times “and so it’s a little scary, it’s a little worrisome, the amount of need that we’re going to see increasing as we head into summer, it’s going to continue to grow.”

Stampas noted food costs on the wholesale level are 33% higher this year compared to last.

To learn more about Fulfill you can visit fulfillnj.org

You can get more information about the Community Food Bank of New Jersey at cfbnj.org

David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at david.matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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