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New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy recently announced that $20 million in CARES Act funding will be allocated to six emergency feeding organizations across the state, to combat the heightened issue of food insecurity due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The announcement took place during a conference last July 9 at Hillside’s Community Foodbank of New Jersey facility.

The six food banks to receive funds will be: Community Food Bank of New Jersey, Vineland’s Southern Regional Food Distribution Center, Food Bank of South Jersey, Fulfill Food Bank of Monmouth and Ocean County, Phillipsburg’s Norwescap Food Bank, and Trenton’s Mercer Street Friends Food Bank.

According to Murphy, the first immediate emergency infusion of $10 million will be provided before August, and another $10 million will follow before December of this year. 

“This (CFNJ) organization has served our state’s families for 45 years, through two of the deepest recessions since the Great Depression, and none of those downturns comes close to the strain this pandemic has put on it, and the other food banks across our state,” said Murphy.

“During this pandemic we have seen the unimaginable,” said CFNJ CEO and president Carlos Rodriguez. 

“In fact, Feeding America projects a 56% increase in New Jersey’s food insecurity rate in the months ahead, as a result of this crisis specifically. That’s an additional 432,000 residents– a rate that is higher than the national average and our neighboring states,” said Rodriguez, who also stated that the Community Food Bank of New Jersey alone has provided food for approximately 25 million meals since the pandemic began. 

Murphy also announced that $208 million in special food assistance benefits will be distributed by the Department of Human Services and Department of Education to over 500,000 children, who would have received free or reduced school lunches during the academic year. 

An additional $180 million in federal funding for added benefits will provide individuals and families who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) with food assistance.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, SNAP reached 8% of New Jersey’s population in 2019. Equating to 1 in 13 residents, about 64% of participants were families with children, and over 37% were families with members who were disabled or elderly. 

Brian Peterson, Mercer Street Friends’ Manager of Community and Donor Affairs, says that the charity is beyond grateful for the aid that additional funding will provide to those in need. 

Peterson has worked for the organization for 12 years, and told Scriberr News the sharp increase in residents needing food during the pandemic has been “eye-opening.”  

The Mercer Street Friends food bank provides 1,600 bags of food for families and individuals every weekend for six different locations. They also work with schools to provide breakfast and lunch for children during the school year, and bags of non-perishables for their families on the weekends. 

The organization in its entirety helps its community through several resources. They implement free preschool education for toddlers, support parenting programs for abused families, and have opened a community store for underprivileged children to have access to clean clothing.

The virus’s impact hit the volunteers hard, being that many of the volunteer teams from corporations disbanded during the pandemic.  

“Usually we would have about 1,200+ volunteers at our food bank, but now, maybe three times a week, we have individual volunteers who have been very kind to come in and assist us,” said Peterson. “There has been a great influx of volunteers and people who have been wanting to help out.”

Peterson has seen the brunt of charitable economic hardship before when he first started working at the food bank during 2008’s Great Recession. He has since learned from the experience, channeling the growth in a way that is more impactful this time around, regardless of the adversity surrounding the situation. 

“That was when people were losing jobs, barely any food donations or funds were coming in, and at that point there was no real corporate philanthropy,” said Peterson. 

“I built the program so that when people make a donation, no matter how small, they get a tour of the food bank. Instead of saying “well thank you for the food, there is the door,” it’s great to have people understand what happens to their food when we receive it, and have them see how it makes a difference. That’s why the funding will be a major help. We truly appreciate it.”

To donate or learn more about the six organizations listed, visit:

Community Food Bank of New Jersey

Southern Regional Food Distribution Center

Food Bank of South Jersey

Fulfill Food Bank of Monmouth and Ocean County

Norwescap

Written ByYayonah Bangura

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