Local churches and food pantries are gearing up for a heavier than usual request for food as the holiday season begins.
“There is more need this year than last,” said Janice Machin of the Assumption Church Food Pantry, adding that while last year was bad due to the economy, more families are feeling the impact this year than ever before.
Last year, Bayonne led the county in unemployment, and more and more people are looking for food that would not otherwise ask for it.
“We’re seeing more people with families than we have in the past,” Machin said. “Some of these people say they never imagined themselves asking for a handout.”
Over the past month, the pantry, local schools, and other groups have been conducting food drives and fundraisers in order to make certain that every family has access to food as the holiday season and winter approaches.
Local schools, public and religious, launched a month-long food drive in October in conjunction with nationally-recognized Make a Difference Day.
“Many more people are coming to both the food pantry and the soup kitchen.” – Janice Machin
For the second year in a row, Friendship Baptist Church will throw open its doors to those who are hungry and lonely on Thanksgiving and will transport food to people who cannot reach their church on West 20th Street.
Food pantry and soup kitchen seeks donations
Assumption Church’s Food Pantry held their fundraiser in early November. But the pantry still needs more donations to fill the growing need.
Machin, Deacon Bill Giordano, Marianne Silvani, and other volunteers help keep the pantry up and running, but the general public needs to donate. The demand for the pantry’s services, both the weekly soup kitchen and the monthly distribution of take-home food, has more than doubled over the last three years, clearly tied to the downturn in the local economy.
“Many more people are coming to both the food pantry and the soup kitchen,” Machin said. “Many people have been laid off from jobs, or they are working part time.”
The pantry has been operating out of Assumption Church since 1977 and opens its doors to people about once a month – although people in need can call almost any time and get help.
Packages that are usually given out when the pantry opens include a box of cereal, three cans of vegetables, boxes of macaroni, a container of sauce, cans of soup, a can of tuna, and odds and ends like tea.
“We’re open the last Saturday of every month,” Machin said.
The pantry receives no city, state, or federal grants. Everything it distributes comes as a result of donations from parishioners, individuals, or other entities.
The Cluster Soup Kitchen at the Assumption Church, which moved over from St. Mary’s Star of the Sea in early 2007, combined efforts from three downtown parishes – St. Andrew’s, St. Mary’s, and Assumption – to help provide a weekly hot meal for those who need them.
Currently, the pantry gives out about 130 bags of groceries per month, which costs the pantry between $30 to $40 per bag.
The soup kitchen in September brought in even more people, many of them bringing children.
“In the past, we used to get individuals,” Machin said. “Now we get whole families.”
The holiday season will bring out more, both to the kitchen for Thanksgiving as well as to the pantry, and they both need donations, she said.
For more information, call Our Lady of the Assumption Parish, Avenue C and West 23rd Street, at (201) 436-8160.
BEOF and Make A Difference Day food drive
For the 25th year, the Bayonne Equal Opportunity Office will be distributing food on Thanksgiving. Strangely enough, it started when a man came to Tiefenwerth and said that he had no place at his daughter’s Thanksgiving table. Tiefenwerth decided to bring him home.
“I asked Mayor Dennis Collins if he thought other people were alone on Thanksgiving,” she said.
So they began to feed the needy on Thanksgiving, adding one more event to what would become a regular program.
Last year, the BEOF cooked more than 400 meals at its Fourth Street Senior Center, which is the site that cooks for the weekly Meals on Wheels program. This year, Tiefenwerth expects to feed more due to the economy.
Her office will also be distributing food collected on Make A Difference Day.
Coordinated by the Bayonne Police Department’s Community Oriented Police (COP) Unit, food has been collected through the Bayonne Board of Education, Marist High School, Holy Family Academy, All Saints Academy (the merged Catholic grammar school), Beacon Christian Academy, the business community, and the Department of Public Works. Imperial Bag and Paper donated boxes for transporting and storing the food.
Along with the BEOF, the food will also be distributed by First Assembly of God, Highways, Jewish Family and Counseling Service, Our Lady of the Assumption Church, St. Andrew’s Church, St. Henry’s Church, St. Mary Star of the Sea Church, St. Vincent’s Church, and Wallace Temple.
Friendship Baptist Church
Last year, Friendship Baptist Church fed more than 100 people and believes that it will feed more this year. Funded by donations from the parishioners and by youth groups working through the local chapter of the Free Teens USA program, the church will feed people at their site as well as bring meals to seniors who cannot come to the church, said Leticia Wise.
“This is open to anyone who needs a meal or wants company,” Wise said.
The meals will be offered from noon to 4 p.m. on Thanksgiving, and those seeking more information or transportation can call (201) 779-2745.