NJ food banks face post-holiday donation drop
The already-difficult fight against hunger adds another hurdle this time of year as New Jersey food banks face a dwindling food supply and sharp dip in donations.
"Following the holidays, we certainly have seen a decrease in the number of food donations, as well as monetary donations," said Linda Keenan, Foodbank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties director of development.
The organization serves 1 in 10 people throughout the two counties. That works out to more than 130,000 people, including 40,000 children, each year.
While Keenan does not believe they have reached a critical point yet, these leaner months certainly add a layer of stress to their daily operation.
"Right now, we can really use additional food donations, as well as monetary donations, because as the supply goes down, the demand continues," Keenan said. "Every day, we have new families coming to us for the first time needing emergency assistance."
All of these factors make it vital, Keenan explained, to raise public awareness about the importance of food drives, especially this time of year.
Although they have enough food to make it through the next few months, it is still essential to continue to stock up on money and food all year long because hunger is an every day, every week, and every year issue.
Summer adds another variable since kids are out-of-school and those are many more meals that families have to provide. Because of that, Keenan said that boosting supplies is vital in the present and heading into the summer.
"It's critical that people understand that hunger is 365 days-a-year, 24 hours-a-day. It doesn't take a vacation. It doesn't take a holiday."
Canned soups, canned meals, canned fruits, whole wheat pasta, and brown rice are some of the items that are very useful for donations. If people wish to give money instead, the food bank can provide three meals for every dollar donated.
In fact, 96 cents of every dollar donated goes directly for food and programs.
"We have extremely low overhead, so that when people make donations, they know that it's really getting to people in the local community," she said.
It's why they were able to serve 11 million pounds of last year.
Just as important as it is to collect money and food donations, it is essential to connect the services to people in need.
Foodbank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties works with more than 300 agency partners to accomplish that. The changing face of hunger adds a layer of difficulty in determining who needs help.
Keenan said hunger is not just limited to homeless individuals. The working poor are becoming increasingly impacted as they are forced to make tough choices between other bills and having a meal. More than 60 percent of the food bank's clients have one more or people under their roof working, at least, one job.
"Those people who find themselves in a difficult position, a challenging position. And we're there to help them get back on their feet."
Check out the Foodbank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties website to find out about their services and how you can help.