With masking and social distancing mandates mostly limited, life is starting to get back to normal in New Jersey. Demand for food assistance, however, remains quite high.

Triada Stampas, the Community Food Bank of New Jersey’s impact leader, said many people may assume with the economy revving up food insecurity is dropping in Jersey but this is simply not the case.

She said after the pandemic started in March of 2020 “an additional 430,000 New Jersey residents were projected to be experiencing food insecurity for the first time.”

“We also know from our network of food pantries and soup kitchens and community partners. They have seen an increase on average of 40% more people coming through their doors.”

Stampas said demand for food assistance remains high in part because county food distribution hubs set up after the pandemic began are now winding down, and many food pantries that are part of the Community Food Bank of New Jersey network are absorbing that demand.

At the same time, about1.2 million Garden State residents still need help getting sufficient food supplies is because “the cost of food has continued to go up, and it’s gone up pretty dramatically during the past 18 months.”

She said this means “need will continue to stay high, we’re far from a return to normal when it comes to food insecurity in New Jersey.”

So what’s the best way to help?

Stampas said financial contributions are always wonderful “but we’re also desperately in need of volunteers, we are operating in a COVID safe way.”

For more information you can visit cfbnj.org.

She noted after the Great Recession, it took almost a decade for food insecurity rates to drop back to pre-recession levels, which indicates hunger will continue to be an issue in Jersey long after the pandemic is over.

Last year the Community Food Bank of New Jersey distributed food for over 66 million meals (nearly 80 million pounds), 22% of which was fresh produce.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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