December 12, 2022 – The idea of food pantries having empty shelves, especially during the holiday season, is a devastating one – yet many pantries across the country, and here in New Jersey, have struggled to keep enough food in stock to support the growing number of families who are relying on them. Food pantries in New Jersey have reporting a 280% increase, with more working families turning to them to get by. Various post-Covid issues have altered the community currently utilizing food pantries, resulting in a distressing symbiosis – the need continues to grow while the resources are shrinking at an alarming rate. Food insecurity is real and Norwescap knows more about than most can appreciate.
Many factors collided to form this ‘perfect storm’ of challenges. Federal assistance that was made available during the pandemic is now gone. Food inflation is unprecedented. Gasoline prices are up. Rent is skyrocketing. Evictions are rising. Due to food supply chain issues, what once took three to four days for delivery, now sometimes takes six to eight weeks. Food banks accustomed to receiving food from the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA), now face reductions. The holiday season is further exacerbating the demand for food staples, presenting an immediate concern for Norwescap.
Our food pantry partners told us they were struggling to keep shelves sufficiently stocked, and we knew we needed a creative solution to get through this. Norwescap got together with those partners and local grocery stores to create a solution that will help hundreds of families get through this holiday season.
We created a six-week food-security solution to get non-perishable staples to our 110 partner food pantries in Warren, Hunterdon and Sussex counties. In this joint strategy, we are purchasing bulk non-perishable foods from our local grocers at ShopRite at a reduced price from retail. Then, we scheduled “Pop-up distribution” days, offered at central locations, where pantry partners come to select the items they need the most right now to stock their shelves at no cost to them, such as rice, canned chili, spaghetti, spaghetti sauce, apple juice, applesauce, Cheerios and more.
The program launched on Tuesday, November 29th and will run through the first week of January 2023.
Expanded funding from the State of New Jersey this year allowed us to make these food purchases. The food insecurity that arose during the pandemic prompted our State leaders to dramatically expand funding, programs, and resources to address hunger. Never before have New Jersey Foodbanks such as ours received this level of funding and support. Two to three years ago, this investment in food banks and other food security programs didn’t exist.
Now, there is a new investment in Foodbanks and SNAP outreach, and other supports – they even recently created the New Jersey Office of Food Security and all of this is helping us to find new, innovative ways to fight hunger in the State.
This latest food-security action to counter supply challenges over the holidays is a perfect pairing between all of us at Norwescap and our local community grocery retailers. As you know, Norwescap is working to build food security in the region and partnerships with stores in our neighborhoods, like ShopRite who have declared their commitment to the same is a win-win for those in need.
- To learn more about Norwescap Food Bank, check out their webpage here: Food Bank – Norwescap
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