October 9, 2008

Help the Hungry

WINTER is coming, and the cupboards are almost bare in North Jersey's food pantries.

The Center for Food Action's pantries in Bergen and Passaic counties are experiencing their most serious food shortages in two decades. So far no one has been turned away, although the size of grocery packages given to clients has been scaled back.

The largest pantry in Passaic County, CUMAC, had to shut down for two days last month because it was out of food -- the first time it was forced to close in 18 years. It's open again in Paterson, but resources are limited.

That's why this Sunday's 17th annual Action Against Hunger food drive, sponsored by North Jersey Media Group Foundation, is of such critical importance. The foundation -- the community service arm of North Jersey Media Group, The Record's parent company -- has a goal this year of collecting more than 100 tons of groceries and at least $15,000 in cash. More than 100 North Jersey locations, including Kings, Pathmark, ShopRite, A&P, Foodtown and Stop & Shop supermarkets, will accept donations of non-perishable food items on Sunday.

The food will go to the Center for Food Action, CUMAC and more than 60 other pantries in North Jersey. The cash donations will be used to buy groceries in bulk.

The Community FoodBank of New Jersey in Hillsdale supplies area pantries with free government-surplus food and bulk purchases made through wholesalers. For $12.89, the food bank can purchase an amount that would cost $10 more than that in a supermarket.

The foundation is encouraging cash donations to increase the buying power of each dollar. The situation is dire.

Figures kept by the Center for Food Action, which has seven sites in Bergen County and one in Passaic County, show that through the end of August demand for food was up 12 percent to 18 percent. In September, the increase mushroomed to 30 percent.

The greater demand includes clients who are coming to food pantries for the first time, people who have lost their jobs or whose hours at work have been reduced and people facing higher energy and housing costs. The need for food is also dramatically higher among seniors.

The Community FoodBank reports that 40 percent of the households it serves have to choose between paying for food or rent. Another 31 percent say they cannot pay for both food and medical care.

We urge readers to support this year's drive. Tens of thousands of North Jersey residents will benefit. Donations are desperately needed, not just to help the hungry but to keep food pantries open. Food pantry officials say they need the drive to be as successful as possible.

Please be generous. The shelves you fill could be as close as those in your neighbor's home.

For more information on this Sunday's food drive and drop-off locations, call 201-646-4029, e-mail [email protected], or visit ActionAgainstHunger.com.

Tax-deductible donations may also be made online at ActionAgainstHunger.com or mailed to North Jersey Media Group Foundation, c/o Legal Department, PO Box 75, Hackensack, NJ 07602- 9192.


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