Volunteers Worry Government Shutdown Will Affect Residents’ Access to Food

NJ Spotlight News | October 16, 2013 | Politics
As the government shutdown continues, food pantry volunteers have seen a greater need for their services and a diminishing supply.

By Lauren Wanko
NJ Today

At the Bradley Food Pantry, volunteers work through the morning, packing groceries for those most in need. The shelves upstairs look full, but downstairs the stockroom is nearly empty.

“Normally we have chicken delivered twice a month. We ran out of our first delivery last week. We have no milk, no eggs,” said Bradley Food Pantry volunteer Tom Mulry.

The Bradley Beach pantry has been unexpectedly inundated with families whose own cupboards are bare. Volunteers worry what the government shutdown’s trickle down effect could mean — to pantry clients who often depend on food stamps and other federal nutrition programs.

“All I can say is over the past three years since I’ve been coming, the number of families which come on a monthly basis has almost doubled,” Mulry said.

Today, the Bradley Food Pantry provided groceries for 35 families in just two hours and last week it served more than 50 families in that same amount of time. The numbers continue to grow.

“If they shut down, if all these pantries shut down, I don’t know what everybody’s gonna do, to be honest cause a lot of people depend on the pantries, like say we run out of food stamps where else are we gonna go?” asked Asbury Park resident Anthony Watkins.

Watkins visits the pantry once a month. He was just notified his food stamps will be cut back starting Nov. 1.

“I don’t want to keep struggling, I don’t want to struggle my entire life,” Watkins said.

“The locals in towns all over this country are probably doing exactly what we’re doing, supplementing what the government isn’t able to do I guess,” said Bradley Food Pantry volunteer Mary Ann Brugger.

With three empty meat freezers, the pantry has no choice but to give out canned beef stew and chili.

“Bless their hearts, they don’t complain that much cause they know the situation. They see how crowded the pantry can get, you know they understand they’re not happy about it but what can they do about it? March on Washington?” Brugger asked.

As for Watkins, if things don’t start turning around the New Jersey native says he’ll have no choice but to move in with family out of state.