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December 07, 2008

Empty Plates & Full Hearts

4 This is tough.  Life is tough.  It's tough for ALL of us.  Every single person is feeling the pinch of the economy - first it was skyrocketing fuel costs, and now it's trickled down to reach everything.  People are having to decide whether to TAKE THEIR MEDICINE or EAT.  What kind of choice is that?!  Families that have not been considered 'at risk' are now finding themselves in need of food to feed their children since loosing their jobs.  New Jersey is getting hit hard. Your state, your neighborhood, maybe even your street.  Maybe even you.

I'm going to let you in on a little secret... I was a very hungry kid growing up.  My mom was a single mom with two kids (she was 23, I was 3, and my brother was 2 when my father left), and without a high school diploma.  Back in the 70's, when it was much harder for a woman to find a job accommodating to family needs (not saying it's much easier now) so we got passed around a lot to family members in the neighborhood.  She worked full time on manufacturing assembly line and went to the County Vo-Tech at night.  The state welfare program paid for her schooling so she could learn to be a secretary and make a better living - or at least work in an office environment and not stand all day doing hard manual labor.  The state also fed us for a good part of my childhood.

I remember a time when food stamps were actually stamps, and remember my mom coming home with a big block of government cheese and cans of tuna fish.  As a parent now I cannot even IMAGINE what it feels like to have to feed your kid cheese sandwiches for breakfast/lunch/dinner and eat nothing yourself.  But yet my mom did it.  Every so often we would receive a few grocery bags full of cereal, spaghetti sauce, bread, toilet paper and canned goods.  I had no idea where it came from, but it was our church.  It probably came from the pantries of my friends homes.  My mom was the best chef ever, she could stretch that food out for three weeks.

Think about it for a minute.  Really really think about it.  Open your refrigerator, imagine it empty.  Open the pantry, see it empty. No food, no toilet paper!  Now imagine having to look your children right in the eyes and tell them it will be better soon.  Tell them your job is safe, or you will find another one soon.  Tell them this will always be their home and their bed.  We lie to them to help keep them safe and innocent, but they know.  I knew.  If you have it at all in your power to donate money or food to the foodbanks - DO IT.  You alone may be the person who feeds a family within our own country, within your own state or town.  Or even on your own street.

Pissed off yet?  Crying yet?  Good.  HELP.

More than 35 million Americans, including 12 million children, either live with or are on the verge of hunger. In New Jersey alone, an estimated 250,000 clients will be seeking sustenance this year from the state's food banks. But recently, as requests for food assistance have risen, food donations are on the decline, leaving food bank shelves almost empty and hungry families waiting for something to eat.

The situation is dire, no more so than at the Community FoodBank of New Jersey (CFBNJ), the largest food bank in the state, where requests for food have gone up 30 percent, but donations are down by 25 percent. Warehouse shelves that are typically stocked with food are bare and supplies have gotten so low that, for the first time in its 25 year history, the food bank is developing a rationing mechanism.

As the state's key distributor of food to local banks – serving more than 500,000 people a year and providing assistance to nearly 1,700 non-profits in the state – the stability of replenishment of the CFBNJ is essential to ensuring that individuals in need have access to food.

If everyone could just do a little, it would help those in need a lot. To help, people can:

  • Make a monetary contribution: Visit www.njfoodbank.org
  • Donate food: Drop off a bag of food at your local food pantry.
  • Organize a food drive: We can help explain the logistics of starting a food drive.  Just call 908-355-FOOD.
  • Help "Check Out Hunger:" Look for the "Check Out Hunger" coupons at your local supermarket and donate. No donation is too small!

One thing that people commonly confuse is the role of the food bank. The CFBNJ is similar to a wholesale distributor, as they provide food to more than 1,600 charities throughout the state, which then give food directly to the hungry (the food bank does not give food directly to individuals).  The food bank also does not accept small amounts of food, such as a cart of groceries.  They encourage those donations go directly to a local food pantry or soup kitchen.  Rather, the food bank accepts large quantity food donations, such as a truck full of groceries, as well as monetary donations which they stretch to purchase food at wholesale prices, such as 300 lb. bags of rice, for example.

Go take a quick click over to watch a video from the Community FoodBank of New Jersey to SEE just how empty their shelves are.  And help...

Original New Jersey Moms Blog post.  You can read up on Lynette at her blog, Lynette {Radio}.  In her spare time /insert LOL here/ she's a podcaster at SCRAPcast, sharing her love of paper and glue sticks with the world.

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