⚫ Demand remains high post-pandemic at NJ food pantries

⚫ Inflation has forced more families to look for help

⚫ Organizations are in overdrive for the holidays

Donated food used to account for about half of the goods distributed throughout the Community FoodBank of New Jersey network.

Today, donated food represents less than a third of what goes out the door.

Donations to Community FoodBank have not rebounded to pre-pandemic levels, yet demand for food and other products remains remarkably high, due in part to inflation that's limiting the power of paychecks at a growing number of households across the Garden State.

"Some of the things that we supply are not food. Things like diapers and period products have also gotten just so much more expensive," president and CEO Elizabeth McCarthy told New Jersey 101.5.

Community FoodBank primarily gets products to residents by distributing to pantries and soup kitchens in the state. Its southern branch, in Egg Harbor Township, runs a pantry on-site five days a week.

"Every day, there's a line for people waiting to come in," McCarthy said.

CFBNJ and similar organizations are in overdrive this time of year, focused on getting holiday meals in the hands of families in need. CFBNJ aims to distribute nearly 85,000 turkeys, chicken roasters, and hams statewide for the holidays.

Community FoodBank of New Jersey distributing turkeys, roasters, and hams for the 2023 holiday season (CFBNJ)
Community FoodBank of New Jersey distributing turkeys, roasters, and hams for the 2023 holiday season (CFBNJ)

More than 725,000 New Jersey residents are considered "food insecure." That includes 175,000 children.

"There are some people who used to donate to the pantry, that are now using the pantry. And that is truly heartbreaking," said Kim Guadagno, executive director of the social services agency Mercy Center in Asbury Park, and former lieutenant governor of New Jersey.

In 2023 so far, Mercy Center's pantry has serviced about 75,000 people. That number was just 1,500 a few years ago, Guadagno said.

"The soaring prices of groceries have been a gut punch for our families here that are already struggling to make ends meet," she said.

Starting on Nov. 15, Mercy Center will be handing out turkeys for Thanksgiving on a first-come, first-served basis.

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