Gloucester Township resident Joanne Carr saw a woman buying an enormous amount of pancake mix at the grocery store and wondered what she planned to do with it all.
The answer: Take it to the food pantry at Our Lady of Hope Parish, on Little Gloucester Road, which had run out of food.
Like other food pantries in Gloucester Township, Our Lady of Hope Parish has seen a gigantic increase in the number of families they provide food. Last year at this time, the food pantry served 175 families a month; this year the number is close to 250.
“People had good jobs last year and now they are out of work,” said Anna O’Toole, president of the St. Vincent DePaul Society, the organization that manages the food pantry at Our Lady of Hope. “We are seeing far less donations of food and money.”
In addition to distributing food twice weekly, the Our Lady of Hope pantry also provides a special Thanksgiving meal package and a Christmas package that includes gifts for entire families.
This year marked the first time the St. Vincent DePaul Society was forced to buy food using funds typically reserved for helping clients with things like utility bills and rent.
The storage of food and increase in hungry families is being seen at food pantries across Gloucester Township and South Jersey. Earlier this week, the Food Bank of South Jersey, which provides food to more than 225 charitable emergency food pantries, announced they were facing a critical shortage of food and resources.
“Pantries are reporting new faces, but not any new food,” said Kristin DeJesus, one of the agency relations managers from the Food Bank of South Jersey.
At Cedar Lane Missionary Home, just a mile away from Our Lady of Hope, food pantry coordinator Barbara Lentz said they are struggling to give people a full package of food. The pantry, which serves 40 families per month, went from giving a large box of food to a smaller bag.
Lentz said they’ve had to cancel their second distribution because they’ve run out of food. She also said the variety of food available from the Food Bank of South Jersey has dwindled.
“It is very hard to sit here and have people come in who are out of work, cannot pay their electric bills, are about to be evicted and all I have to offer is canned corn. It is not enough to make a meal,” Lentz said.
Right up the road, the food pantry at Bethel Christian Center also relied heavily on food from the Food Bank of South Jersey. Now, says food pantry manager Kay Cotton, the menu of available food lacks variety and availability, so community donations of food are sorely needed.
“Right now, when food comes in, it is gone in a week,” said Cotton. “This has been our most challenging year ever.”
Cotton says they serve about 500 people per month and they continue to get new clients—about five per month.
The food pantries in Gloucester Township primarily serve residents of Gloucester Township and some surrounding towns. As other food pantries in the region shut their doors, new clients are sent to the area, increasing need on a large scale.
Benjamin Coates, who manages the food pantry at Living Word Bible Fellowship located on Church Street, has seen people from as far as Blue Anchor and Atco come calling for boxes of food.
Still, the pantry, which serves between 500 and 600 people, struggles to have enough food.
“We are entering the Thanksgiving season and we are down to the bare walls—we need everything,” said Coates.
The food pantries in Gloucester Township serve food year-round, but, say the coordinators, are feeling a particular need at Thanksgiving and Christmas, when families are provided with larger meals, like a traditional turkey dinner. Food pantries accept donations of food, supplies and money. If you want to donate, here are details on drop-off locations and pantry-specific requests.
distributes food year-round, including two special Thanksgiving and Christmas distributions. Food is distributed twice per week, plus they are available for emergency disbursements. Non-perishable food and/or monetary donations may be dropped off any time at the church office. Contact: St. Vincent DePaul Society, 856-232-5558.
Cedar Lane Missionary Home distributes food twice per month and accepts donations Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Coordinator Barbara Lentz says they need pantry staples like flour, sugar and salt, plus toilet paper is always in high demand. Contact: Barbara Lentz, 856-783-6525.
accepts donations at any time. Non-perishables and/or monetary donations may be dropped off at the church office or left in baskets inside the church doors. Suggested foods include canned tuna, beans, peanut butter, ketchup, canned vegetables and cereal. Contact: Kay Cotton, 856-228-5050.
, located on Church Street next to the Kingdom Charter School of Leadership, accepts donations of non-perishables and/or fresh produce by arrangement. Benjamin Coates, the organizer, said they also accept monetary donations that can be used to purchase subsidized food at a low cost from the Food Bank of South Jersey. Checks should be made out to the Food Bank of South Jersey.Thanksgiving-related items like instant mashed potatoes, stuffing, vegetables and macaroni are needed at the moment. Contact: Benjamin Coates, 856-803-3230.