By JULIA ROTHKOFF- JFCS Communications Intern
Hunger never sleeps, and the JFCS of Southern New Jersey’s food pantry is here to help. Many people only donate food during the winter months, however hunger attacks in the spring, fall and summer as well. As of mid-August, the food pantry has supplied 767 bags of food and personal care items for its fourth quarter (July through September 2015). All together, these items weigh a total of 8,466 pounds. Many of these food donations went to families and children; 244 distributions were made to families, 241 were made to adults, 221 were made to children and 84 were made to seniors. However, the numbers are still growing. JFCS’ Intake Coordinator and Family Assistance Case Manager, Meri Seligman thinks that the summer of 2015 has been one of the busiest times at the food pantry.
“Sometimes when people get their food stamps at the beginning of the month, they’re okay for a little while, and then when it runs out mid-month, we get really busy again. Our numbers are increasing all the time. The need is growing,” said Seligman.
The food pantry is nondenominational, and no one is ever turned away. However, Seligman or another case manager meets with each client and records the budget and intake information of the client. After the client completes the intake form, he or she can pick up food from the food pantry. Every day Seligman sees the impact that the food pantry has on its clients. However some stories really stand out to her.
“We get organic produce from TBS. They have a co-op, so they give a share of fresh produce every week from May to October, which is not something that we normally get. I have had one client who has had lung cancer, and she lost her job because of her cancer treatments. She was basically living on canned goods. [When she got] the organic produce that she needed for her health, she was out of her mind with happiness,” said Seligman.
While there is no age demographic that most commonly receives food from the pantry, many of the clients are families with small children.
“We have a lot of kids come through, and they’ll come with their parents to pick up the bags. Sometimes they’ll look through the bags, and they’ll see Oreos and one kids will say ‘wow. I now have Oreos in my lunch just like everybody else,’’ said Seligman.
While children will be every excited to find Oreos in their bags, the food pantry does strive to make each bag healthy. JFCS’ Director of Volunteers, Andi Loew tries to represent all of the food groups in the bags that are given to needy individuals.
“All year round we try to give out food that has some nutritional value. We like to give out protein. We also give out pasta because it stretches far, and one can add veggies to make a balanced meal. We also always give out veggies and fruit. We prefer the produce to be fresh, but we always have canned vegetables and fruit available. During the summer, we often have more requests for kid friendly snacks because the children are home,” said Loew.
During the warmer months, JFCS encourages farmers to donate their fresh produce. Not only is fresh produce healthy, but also it tastes good.
“We encourage gardeners to give us their excess produce. Currently, we get fresh veggies from an organic co-op called Hazon. We also get some produce from farmers, supermarkets and individual households. Unfortunately, in the winter, produce donations decrease substantially,” said Loew.
Just like Seligman, Loew thinks that the food pantry is particularly busy during the summer months.
“[The need is high during the summer because] the children are out of school and do not get free subsidized meals from the government when schools are not in session,” said Loew.
The food pantry mainly sees a large influx of volunteers during the holiday season and when students need to fulfill community service requirements for school. However, the food pantry is constantly looking for volunteers. Loew thinks that through outreach and education, more people will want to donate and volunteer.
“We need to make people aware of the issues around food insecurity and show them how they can help us help others by donating food. Hunger is 24/7,” said Loew.
In order to donate Kosher food to the JFCS food pantry or volunteer for the food pantry, please contact Andi Loew at 856-424-1333 or email email@example.com.