October 10, 2008

Seeking Sustenance ; Corzine Earmarks Aid for Food Pantries Shy on Supplies


Faced with supply shortages and skyrocketing numbers of clients, food pantries around New Jersey will get an extra $200,000 this month from a state program that helps feed the hungry, Governor Corzine announced Thursday.

But unless his administration can find money in the budget to replace those funds, the pantries will find themselves with $200,000 less over the final half of the state's fiscal year.

Speaking at the CUMAC food pantry in Paterson, Corzine said the state will accelerate such payments out of its Hunger Initiative program, which provides $4 million annually to regional community food banks around the state. The food banks then distribute the funds to local pantries.

The payments are made in four quarterly installments, said Jeff Beach, spokesman for the state Department of Agriculture. Normally, the state gives out $1.2 million in the first quarter of the fiscal year (in July), $800,000 in each of the next two quarters (October and around New Year's) and the last $1.2 million installment in the spring.

The administration has decided to increase this month's payment to $1 million and distribute it a week earlier because of the crisis at the pantries, Beach said.

CUMAC, Passaic County's largest pantry, was forced to close its doors for two days last month because it ran out of food. The Center for Food Action in Englewood, Bergen County's largest pantry operator, has run out of certain critical items and is handing out less food to its clients.

Both organizations report that the number of people asking for help has increased by as much as 40 percent over last year.

"We are aware of the increased need," Beach said.

"We're trying to quantify it, and we know we need to address it in some way."

Pantry officials say the stress on their organizations is only getting worse.

"Usually in the first five to 10 days of the month, we average 20 families," said the Rev. Pat Bruger, CUMAC's executive director. "This month, we're averaging almost 60."

She added that CUMAC is managing to keep its doors open only because "many churches and other organizations in the faith communities have been holding collections and driving up to our door in their cars. But the need is so great that literally what's coming in one door is going right out another."

"We still have a lot of bare shelves," said CFA executive director Patricia Espy. "We've had calls from some of the other pantries at local churches who are so low on food we're telling them that, if they want to, they can redirect their clients to us. We'll do what we can."

The pantries are hoping that they'll get a major boost in supplies from two sources next week:

"We'll be picking up from the temples that hold food collections on Yom Kippur," Espy said. "And we're really counting on the food drive."

The Action Against Hunger food drive will be held Sunday. It's the single biggest source of food and cash that pantries in Bergen, Passaic, Morris and Hudson counties receive annually.

Donations of non-perishable food and money can be made at more than 100 sites around North Jersey, including most of the area's supermarkets and The Record's building at 150 River St., in Hackensack.

North Jersey Media Group Foundation, the charitable arm of the paper's parent company, is a co-sponsor of the drive.


Here's how to join in

The 17th annual Action Against Hunger food drive is Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. You can bring cash donations or non-perishable food items to any of more than 100 participating sites, including ShopRite, Kings, A&P, Foodtown, Pathmark and Stop & Shop supermarkets across North Jersey and at The Record, 150 River St. in Hackensack.

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

Among the most needed food items are canned meats, vegetables and fruits; soups and stews; pasta, rice, peanut butter, enriched cereals, powdered or evaporated milk and pure fruit juice. Please do not bring items in glass containers or those that are outdated. For more information visit the Web site, e-mail [email protected] or call 201-646-4029.


E-mail: [email protected]


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