Recently, I sponsored a food distribution event in partnership with my legislative colleagues, Assemblyman Herb Conaway and Assemblywoman Carol Murphy. Even though we practiced social distancing, it provided me with a front-row view of one of the difficult and unintended consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been food insecurity resulting from the closures of schools and staggering unemployment rates.
To address this, we worked in partnership with the Food Bank of South Jersey to ensure that children and families throughout Burlington County have access to nutritious food during this unprecedented public health crisis.
Hundreds of people showed up to pick up food because they were concerned about feeding their families. Many of these families have never needed the assistance of a food bank. Confronting them was one of the most basic of human needs: having enough food. That day, we distributed over 1,900 gallons of milk, 2,500 pounds of chicken fingers, 900 whole chickens, 500 boxes of produce, and 500 boxes of pantry items. Clearly, the need was great.
I have mentioned this in the past, but those who came were not people taking advantage of the system. When you look them in the eye, the understanding is apparent: Many told me that they never thought they would be in a food line, and that no one foresaw the ravages caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
There was fear in people’s faces, but also, I could sense their gratefulness that someone, their fellow citizens, were there to help.
The facts bear further explanation. Food banks are seeing about a 50% increase for food boxes, and that is a surge likely to remain for the remainder of the year. “We don’t see it slowing down right now, and we’re preparing for what’s coming up in the next four, six, 18 months,” said Fred Wasiak, president of the Food Bank of South Jersey, which serves Burlington, Camden, Gloucester and Salem counties.
You can help meet this increased demand by supporting your local food bank. Take those cans or food items that you haven’t used, put them in a bag. and donate them. Or, perhaps the next time you go grocery shopping, consider filling an extra bag with groceries that you can drop off at the food bank. Many social service organizations and churches participate, and you can drop off the food with them, easing the logistical burden.
If you read this blog, please, help. You might have the right intention, but your resolve to assist will fade. Take the few moments we need to help those who might otherwise go to bed hungry.
“The cameras go away, the masks go away, but the ripple effect of unemployment is going to be a long time,” said Fred Wasiak.
Those of us that are more fortunate should pause the next time we have a family meal and ask: “Is there someone I could have helped by donating a meal?”
Please help to end food insecurity. That’s my take, what’s yours?