Food Pantries Low on Food for Holiday Season

NJ Spotlight News | December 18, 2013 | Around NJ
Food bank officials say demand is up and supplies are running out to help NJ's hungry this holiday season.

By Lauren Wanko

This is typically the time of year people gather around the dinner table for a warm, holiday meal. But in Paterson, dozens gather around the table at Eva’s Kitchen — a non-profit that helps feed
those most in need. Today they were joined by Gov. Chris Christie.

Busy soup kitchens and food pantries are getting even busier, say volunteers. This morning, the Bradley Food Pantry was filled with clients grateful to take home about a week’s worth of groceries.

“During the holidays you do run out and need stuff, especially if you run out of food stamps and this helps,” said Wall Township resident Anita L. Adams.

“A busy day used to be between 20 and 30 families in two hours. Now we can go up to 50 and 60 families,” said Mary Ann Brugger, Volunteer at Bradley Food Pantry.

We first visited the Bradley Food Pantry in October. The meat and egg freezers were bare. Today they’re bare again. The Bradley Beach Pantry ran out of meat, eggs and tuna fish about a week ago. The need continues to soar.

“If we’re out of it, they get whatever we can give them,” Mulry said.

Clients here come once a month. They must qualify for the groceries. The majority receives federal nutrition assistance.

“The food stamps last them only about to the 15th of the month. The end of the month we start getting busier,” said Bradley Food Pantry Director Richard Brugger.

Volunteers say they’re seeing even more clients now since the recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — formerly known as food stamps — saw a reduction in their benefits this past November.

“They cut back on me about $12, so that $12 I could have bought meat,” Adams said.

This past Thanksgiving, Bradley Food Pantry donated about 500 turkeys and all the fixings for a holiday meal. Volunteers here plan to fill that same need this Christmas.

The Bradley Food Pantry gets its supplies from the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, which distributes food to more than 250 emergency food programs in both counties.

“Anecdotally, our programs are reporting, all the food pantries and soup kitchens, serving 15 to 20 percent more people,” said FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties Executive Director Carlos Rodriguez.

That means food is flying off their shelves at record speed. The FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties is on pace to distribute about 9 million pounds of food this year, but can only do it with donations.

Back at Bradley Food Pantry, volunteers are eager for a delivery tomorrow, although they know as soon as these freezers fill up, they’ll empty out again.