A food drive pilot program that started in Somerset County in 1995 has collected more than 2.1 million pounds of food since its inception.

This year, The Curbing Hunger Food Drive, which began June 1, is being extended into July in all 21 Somerset County municipalities.

Freeholder Director Patrick Scaglione said there's always a need for food. During the school year, it's a lot easier to get donations because more people are around — schools get involved and conduct food drives as well. But in the summer, people are away on vacations and the donations dwindle.

"So if we extend it into July, (make) it a little bit easier for people to coordinate with their summer schedules, I think we could bring in a higher net amount of donations to the food bank," Scaglione said.

Organizers hope to collect 55,000 pounds of food this year. Scaglione said the goal is always in the 50,000-pound range, and organizers increase the goal amount every year.

He said while 50,000 pounds of food may sound like a lot, people need to eat every single day — and that 50,000 pounds dries up pretty quickly.

Orange plastic bags have been distributed to county households, but Scaglione said any plastic grocery bag will do. He the drive it works great with the recycling program too, because when people know they have to put out their recycling, they remember the food drive. Many will then rummage through their pantries to see what they have, put the items in plastic bags, clearly mark the bags "food", then leave them with the recycling for town pickup.

Scaglione said there's an easy online donation option too, at CurbingHunger2018.org. The produce is directly delivered to the local food bank.

The annual drive helps increase food supplies at the Bridgewater-based Food Bank Network of Somerset County and the Franklin Township Food Bank.

Marie Scannell, executive director of the Food Bank Network said her group always needs peanut butter, jelly, pasta, Parmalat milk, canned chicken and cereal. She said many times parents serve cereal to their children for supper.

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