Local Food Banks Need A Little Extra Cheer Now and Throughout…

first_imgBy Madelynne KislovskyThe holiday season is a time of cheer, compassion, and love and many celebrate by donating either time or resources to the less fortunate, but donations are down and charities warn hunger is a year-long problem.There are several locations in the Two River area that are accepting donations for local families that can’t make ends meet this season, and according to the supervisors of these locations, such as the Salvation Army and Lunch Break, the status of this season’s holiday donations is satisfactory, but slowly dwindling.According to Gwen Love, Lunch Break Executive Director, this season has been a little bit of a challenge.Lunch Break used a ‘prescriptive’ method that consisted of pre-packed bags of groceries people received until June of this year.Using a prescriptive method volunteers pre-packed food from a list – one can of tuna, one box of pasta – so everyone got similar bags.“Studies have shown that a large majority of the food people receive from ‘prescriptive’ pantries is wasted because they can’t eat it, don’t want it, or don’t have the facilities to prepare it,” Love said.To avoid wasting donations, Lunch Break set up a new innovative “Client Choice” pantry model that allows clients to choose what’s in bags of groceries to ensure that their needs are met based on their dietary restrictions and the size of their families. Under this method, the pantry is also open for longer hours, thereby serving a higher amount of those in need.“This model honors and uplifts the dignity of our clients, promoting more efficient distribution of our charitable resources and preventing waste,” Love said.On average, Lunch Break receives 100 new families each month from all over Monmouth County, and some in Ocean County. In 2014, Lunch Break donated 45,000 bags of groceries to more than 1,000 families every month. The organization plans to serve over 2,000 families per month by the end of the year.Lunch Break mainly asks for funding, while food donations and drives are also important. With funding, Lunch Break is able to purchase basic items in bulk, allowing them to plan ahead for meals and prevent shortages in their food pantry and soup kitchen. Funding allows Lunch Break to purchase from national wholesalers like Sysco, along with local retailers such as Foodtown, and even purchasing food from the Food Bank to use for their Thanksgiving and Holiday baskets for their clients.The Salvation Army of Red Bank is also finding themselves short this season, especially on certain foods such as corn bread, rice, and gravy, which are basic items that are usually included in their donated food boxes. The organization is also asking for frozen chickens, turkeys, fruits, veggies, canned foods including peanut butter, jelly, beef stew or chili, and boxes of mashed potatoes, baking mixes, and drink mixes. Several companies and organizations, including the YMCA Civic Engagement Program, Arrow Limousine, Long Branch High School, Red Bank Regional High School and the Red Bank Rotary’s Can-A-Thon have aided the Salvation Army in filling the gaps for their Thanksgiving distribution that have been present for months, according to Jesabel Cruz, office manager and case worker for the Red Bank branch of the Salvation Army. Food donations are accepted at the Salvation Army branch from 9 AM-12 PM and then again from 1 PM-3:30 PM, Monday through Friday.The FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties have experienced a successful season in terms of what they’ve received so far from donators, but they are seeing a 10% decrease in the amount of food they have received this year versus 2014. “We’re concerned about this because the need hasn’t gone away,” said Executive Director Carlos Rodriguez.For every dollar received by the FoodBank, free meals and support can be given to those in need in Monmouth and Ocean counties. One of the biggest issues that the FoodBank has been struggling with this season is the increase in prices of commodities, especially turkeys. The price for the bird has increased about 17% verses what the FoodBank paid last year, according to Rodriguez. The FoodBank relies on donations of both funding and food to ensure that families receive what they need. The director says the community has come together to help close the food gap, and the FoodBank is confident that those in need will receive a proper Thanksgiving.“We’re going to need community members to volunteer their time, their dollars, and food if they have it. This is a year round problem that we’re dealing with, well beyond Thanksgiving into Christmas, and after New Year into January. We will have an influx now, but we need it to continue through January to help folks after the holidays,” Rodriguez said. The Food Bank is open through Wednesday, closed for Thanksgiving on Thursday and Friday, but it is not too late to donate. Log into foodbankmoc.org to donate or find information about volunteer opportunities.Local foundations and organizations have also stepped up this season to do their part and ensure that those in need are able to make ends meet for this season.The Jersey Strong Foundation donated $25,000 to the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, allowing them to purchase 1,700 turkeys for local families. A lack of funding for these organizations to purchase turkeys came about due to the Bird Flu causing an increase in prices for turkeys. This donation by the Jersey Strong Foundation allowed for 2,000 families to have a proper Thanksgiving dinner. “As soon as we heard the story about the shortage of turkeys, we knew we had to help. Everyone deserves a Happy Thanksgiving,” said Heidi Roma of the Jersey Strong Foundation in a press release.The 17th Annual Turkey Trot took place on November 20th at the Erickson Living Seabrook Retirement Community, where the residents of Seabrook along with the 6-foot turkey mascot walked one of three Turkey Trot courses, the Turkey Course (1 mile), the Chicken Course (1/2 mile), or the Cornish Hen (around the parking lot). Over 500 turkeys were donated by Seabrook residents and staff to the Bradley Food Pantry, Interfaith Neighbors, St. Rose of Lima Church, and Lunch Break, which would feed about 600 people and 1,500 families. The Turkey Trot has donated more than 6,000 turkeys to local charities since its launch in 1999.last_img