Hungry for the Holidays in NJ — Food and Money Wanted
The push is on at New Jersey food banks to feed up to 1 million residents — including hundreds of thousands of children — this holiday season.
According to the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, which has warehouses in Hillside and Egg Harbor Twp., that's how many residents are considered "food insecure."
Chances are the entire million won't need to access the assistance of food pantries, soup kitchens or shelters in order to eat a hearty meal for Thanksgiving or the December holidays. But a significant amount will, faced with homelessness or a financial situation at home that forces family feasts to the back burner.
"They're making choices between eating and heating their homes," said FoodBank President Debra Vizzi.
The FoodBank last year distributed about 25,000 turkeys throughout the state. The goal is to double that number in 2017.
Fulfill, which serves families in Monmouth and Ocean counties, hopes to distribute 1.4 million pounds of food — enough for more than 1 million meals — in November alone.
"If everyone keeps doing what they're doing, we should be able to distribute well over 10,000 birds this holiday season," said executive director Carlos Rodriguez. "November really is the biggest push and it continues throughout December."
Fulfill on Thursday received 2,000 turkeys and 2,000 pounds of fresh produce from ShopRite. Rodriguez cited additional assistance from Stop & Shop, Wegmans and McDonald's.
While canned and nonperishable foods are always welcome, food banks note that monetary donations can help more families. One dollar donated to Fulfill, for example, equates to three meals for someone in need. Rodriguez said financial donations also help fuel their trucks that transport donations into and throughout their 1,500 square mile service area.
According to Vizzi, natural disasters in other parts of the country and beyond have diverted some donations that would have otherwise been devoted to local hunger issues. Still, she believes the FoodBank's lofty holiday goals are reasonable and attainable.
"We know that people are very generous this time of year and we know that people want to do the right thing for their neighbors," she said.