All across Hudson County – and even in wealthy Bergen County – emergency food providers tell the same story: The need for food is going up while donations are going down, leaving them to do more with less.
Even the Secaucus Emergency Food Pantry has seen an increase in the number of families in needed of emergency food.
“Yes, we have seen more of a need since the economy started getting bad,” Lisa Snedeker, director of social services in Secaucus, said last week. “We might not have as much of a need as bigger cities like Jersey City. But we do have families who access our food bank. We rely on donations to feed people, and I can tell you it’s always a struggle to keep our food donations up.”
With food costs rising and the economy still struggling, local food pantries face many challenges to feed their clients.
The rise in food bank use is largely coming from families, single parents, and the elderly.
The Secaucus Food Pantry received 10,000 lbs. Wednesday as a part of the campaign.
“Frankly, it’s through corporate donations live this one that we’ve been able to meet the rising demand for emergency food,” said Dan Altilio, president of the United Way of Hudson County, on Wednesday. “If it weren’t for these types of donations, we’d have to cut the numbers of people we serve throughout the county. And since we partner with local service organizations, that means that they would also be limited in the numbers of people they serve.”
An estimated 75,000 lbs. of Goya Food products will be donated, through the United Way, to food banks, shelters, senior centers and other facilities in Hudson County as part of the Goya Gives Campaign.
According to Goya President and CEO Robert Unanue, this will be the largest single food donation in the history of the United States. The 1 million lbs. of food being donated will feed about 3 million people.
“We have set a 10-year goal to significantly reducing hunger and food insecurity in this country,” Unanue said. “It is our hope that this donation sets a standard and goal that communities and other companies can participate in as we move forward.”
Goya is making the food donations in honor of its 75th anniversary.
Snedeker said there have been a couple of emergencies recently that have caused families to rely on the food pantry for short-term need. Once those emergencies passed, however, use of the pantry fell back down to normal levels.
Emory A. Edwards, the executive director of the Palisade Emergency Residence Corporation (PERC) homeless shelter in Union City, said, “We’ve seen a huge increase in need. And it’s not the stereotype vagrant, single man that people tend to think of when they think about people who use emergency food services. We’re seeing a more diverse range of clients: single mothers with children, families, people who work and have jobs but who aren't always able to feed themselves.”
The rise in food bank use is largely coming from families, single parents, and the elderly, according to advocates for the poor.
Like the Secaucus Food Pantry, Edwards said the number of donations to PERC is also down from last year.
The situation is similar in Hoboken.
“Many of the people who donate to us are just regular people who will, let’s say, buy a carton of orange juice and a pack of napkins for their own family, and pick up a carton of juice and some napkins for the shelter,” said Jaclyn Cherubini, director of the Hoboken Shelter. “But if they’re having difficulty buying staples for themselves, they’re less likely to pick up those extra items for us.”
Cherubini’s service offers shelter to 50 men and women each night and provides 200 meals every day. She said she has seen a noticeable increase in the number of elderly single women seeking emergency food.
Snedeker, Edwards, and Cherubini all said that so far, they’ve been able to stretch the food they have to meet the rising need, but they’ve been doing it with increasing difficulty.
Food donations began last week and will continue for several weeks, according to Rebecca Rodriguez-Llerena, Goya’s vice president of logistics.
The types of food to be donated include rice, beans, juice drinks, and canned vegetables, said Rodriguez-Llerena.
At an event held at the Meadowlands Sports Complex Wednesday to announce the 1 million lbs. donation, Goya CFO Peter Unanue emphasized that offering nutritious food and teaching young people to eat healthier would be incorporated into the Goya Gives Campaign.
On Wednesday Unanue also announced that Goya will be making a donation to victims of the recent tsunami in Japan.
E-mail E. Assata Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org.