⚾Record food shortage prompts Somerset County to launch fundraising effort

⚾The Somerset Patriots is part of the joint food drive looking for food and money

⚾The number of families seeking help is up between 50 and 100% since last year, according to officials

*** Update: The fundraiser has been extended until Dec.31, 2023 ***

BRIDGEWATER — Local food pantries in Somerset County report that the demand for food has doubled since last year.

The number of families in the county seeking assistance from local food pantries and banks is up between 50 and 100% since 2022, according to officials, prompting Somerset County and the Somerset Patriots, the New York Yankees AA affiliate, to announce a joint food drive to encourage donations of dollars, food, and personal care products.

The effort kicked off on Dec. 9 at TD Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater as part of a holiday toy and food event organized by the team.

Now, Patriots Co-Chairmen, Jonathan and Josh Kalafer have announced a challenge grant.

So far, food banks have raised approximately $18,000 under the original deadline of Dec. 20, for a total of $36,000 including the match. This week, the Patriots agreed to a request from the county to extend the deadline to Dec. 31., in hope of unlocking the entire $25,000 offered.

The team and Kalafer family will match monetary donations made by the public until New Year's Eve on a dollar-for-dollar basis, up to 25 grand.

There are a few ways to donate:

Direct dollar donations can be made to any of the four major food pantries and banks in Somerset County listed on the county website.

Checks sent by mail will also count if the words “Somerset Challenge” are written on the memo line.

The public can also donate canned or non-perishable food and personal care items to bins located at any public library in the county, or at the TD Bank Ballpark at 860 East Main Street in Bridgewater.

“Unfortunately, food security in our area is at a point that demands immediate attention and support from our community. No one should be unable to provide food for their family or not have the assistance available to them through local food banks and organizations,” Josh Kalafer said.

He said he is challenging the entire community to step up and help make a difference.

“We applaud the generosity of the Somerset Patriots and the Kalafer family, in helping us raise awareness and funding to address the serious food insecurity problem we are facing this holiday season. High food prices and reduced federal support have created a serious shortfall in resources to address hunger here and across the country,” said Somerset County Commissioner Director Shanel Y. Robinson.

Food Bank Network of Somerset County girl birthday donation
A new warehouse in Bridgewater for the Food Bank Network of Somerset County (courtesy Food Bank Network of Somerset County via Facebook)

Family visits to the Feeding Hands food pantry in Hillsborough this year are 63% higher than at the peak of the pandemic, said Lois Bennet, director of the pantry.

The Franklin Food Bank has reported that visits are up 55% from 11,000 last year to over 17,000 this year, and the Food Bank of Somerset County has reported that visits have doubled since 2021 from under 12,000 to 25,000.

Food banks and pantries participating in the Somerset Challenge food drive include Feeding Hands Inc., the Food Bank Network of Somerset County, My Neighbors Pantry at Zarephath Church, and the Franklin Food Bank.

Report a correction 👈 | 👉 Contact our newsroom

LOOK: One NJ Christmas town you need to check out

Gallery Credit: Dennis Malloy

More From New Jersey 101.5 FM