For more than two years, Burlington County and the Food Bank of South Jersey have partnered for a touchless, drive-through pantry as part of an effort to battle hunger and food insecurity.
Needy residents received free boxes of groceries and information about assistance programs from the county’s commissioners, volunteers and state Sen. Troy Singleton on July 16.
“ … It’s a touchless food drive,” said Burlington County Commissioner Felicia Hopson. “The residents don’t get out of their cars … Our volunteers, they are all at different stations, and then the volunteers just load the cars with what we have at each station.”
“ … Sometimes there’s vegetables, there’s milk, there’s hot, there’s cold food – it really just depends on what our partners provide for this particular initiative,” she added.
According to the county and Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization. close to 30,000 people living in the county are believed to be food insecure. County Human Services Director Shirla Simpson explained how the drive-through food pantry came to fruition.
“ … We did start at the very beginning of the pandemic,” she said. “We saw a need and I contacted the Food Bank of South Jersey, and we started a partnership with them … We’ve continued it until now, until our third year.”
“We’ve continued because our residents have never stopped coming.”
Simpson noted how many people volunteer for the monthly event.
“ … We’ve had sororities, fraternities, we’ve had high-school groups, we’ve had Boy Scouts,” she noted. “ … It’s a real ‘feel good’ activity for people because you get to see (those) people in need, and you get to really feel like you’re doing something that’s worthwhile.”
County volunteer Tammi Bathke explained what inspired her to help others.
“ … My husband and I came out pretty much intact through the pandemic, but it made me realize, dig deeper and (think) how can I serve my community more?” she recalled. “ … I do this to ground me, to keep me humble (and) to understand that there’s so much we can do if we just look outside and see.”
County Commissioner Director Dan O’Connell said the drive-through pantry is beneficial for all families.
“I don’t think I can put it into words,” he said. “ … Especially when you see a car come up here with kids … It’s one thing for me not to eat as an adult and tell yourself, ‘I’ll put it off until tomorrow.’ Kids don’t understand that, and not only that, we all know the value of nutrition …
“It can’t be overstated how important I think this is.”