There is no denying the health benefits of naturally grown foods. Who doesn’t enjoy a nice, healthy salad for lunch or dinner? Crispy lettuce, juicy tomatoes, fresh cucumbers, and maybe some crunchy carrots? You can feel healthy just looking at a bowl of veggies like that. However, many seniors, children, and families won’t be able to enjoy the true benefits of living in the Garden State this summer. This is due in part to the limitations facing local food pantries, as a result of the reduction in SNAP (food stamp) benefits previously provided to individuals in need.
The JFCS Betsy & Peter Fischer Food Pantries with two locations in Cherry Hill and one in Maple Shade, have been trying to stretch every donated dollar to the limit, to get as much food as possible to those who need it. Fresh fruit and vegetables are always in demand, as these tend to be more expensive and not within the budgets of most JFCS clients.
The healthier the food, the more costly it seems it is to buy. Many times, on a fixed income or with limited income, clients cannot afford the luxury of buying vegetables and fruit. JFCS has created a unique initiative to address this exact difficulty, through a new program called Gardens for Good.
“As part of our new initiative, Gardens for Good, we are asking local farmers and gardeners to help us rise to the challenge of bringing healthy nourishment to our struggling clients, and donate any surplus of their crops to our pantries,” says Andi Loew, Director of Volunteers for JFCS. “It truly takes a village to help others in need, and we are hopeful our community will respond with their support and give the gift of healthy food to those who are unable to provide it for their families.”
Recently, the NJ Anti-Hunger Coalition conducted a survey of NJ pantries and food banks, and the impact of rising food needs was evident. Roughly half of the survey respondents said they have had to reduce the amount of certain types of costlier healthy foods they purchase – such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and dairy products.
“We knew that the reduction in SNAP benefits would make it more difficult for people to feed themselves and their families,” said Adele LaTourette, director of the New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition, a statewide network of over 900 emergency food providers, activists, and faith-based organizations. “This survey confirms that, and something else we suspected: Non-profit and faith-based social service organizations don’t have the money or manpower to pick up all the slack. Senior citizens, children, and the working poor all benefit from SNAP. Food is a basic necessity, and the federal government needs to make sure all its citizens can get enough to eat.”
JFCS is eager to welcome the bounty of local harvests to its grateful clients, the goodness grown in from the soil of generous gardeners and farmers in Southern New Jersey. “The Gardens for Good program will help us nourish our neighbors in need, with food grown right here,” says Loew. “We truly are sowing the seeds of kindness through this meaningful initiative.”
For information on Gardens for Good, please call 856-424-1333 or email Andi Loew at email@example.com.