2018-05-23 / Columns

Hot, hungry & in need of our help: Giving to food pantries in the summer months

STRAIGHT FROM THE HEART
MARLA MEYERS
Executive Director, Jewish Family & Children’s Service

It is a long, warm season, and all the children are outside playing. You can hear the sounds of laughter, squeals of excitement, and the hum of plans being made for the weekend sleepover. At around 1 p.m., three of the five children go inside to have lunch, a snack, and a cold drink with their parents. Two children, Josh and Toby, do not. They head indoors as their playmates did, but just because it looks better that way to their friends; it makes them look like they have a “normal” lunch planned.

However, those two boys aren’t getting a delicious lunch, a healthy treat, or even a box of juice today. They will have some water from the tap, and a couple slices of bread split between them, and wait until their friends reemerge from their homes. When Josh and Toby’s mom comes home from the parttime employment she got after she was laid off from her fulltime job, they will try to put something – anything – on the table so they can sleep better tonight. Sometimes the growling in the stomachs and heat of the apartment make it unbearable to sleep.

Summer can be the hungriest time for a child in need. Summer meals are critical for children who previously relied on free and reduced- price school meals throughout the school year. Struggling families can see their grocery bills swell an average of $300 per month over the summer – $300 they just don’t have. And, usually food dwindles (as does medical care and needed prescriptions), electricity bills skyrocket or are unpaid altogether, and a literal food drought impacts their families with a vengeance for three months. The children, still growing and playing, can be affected on a deep level due to malnourishment.

JFCS’s three Betsy and Peter Fischer Food Pantries in Camden and Burlington Counties see so many families like Josh and Toby’s throughout the summer months. Sadly, this is also when we see a downward dip in food donations. We need your help to keep the kids and families of Southern New Jersey fed with proper nutrition – not only to bring calm to their bellies – but peace to their minds.

The JFCS pantries operate solely from donations. Last year, we fed over 4,500 individuals in our three-county footprint.

It’s a simple fact: A child’s chance for a bright tomorrow starts with getting enough healthy food to eat today. But in America, 1 in 6 children may not know where they will get their next meal. For the nearly 13 million kids in the U.S. facing hunger, getting the energy they need to learn and grow can be a day-in, day-out challenge. SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) of the Federal Government is one of our nation’s most powerful tools for ending childhood hunger. It gives families resources to purchase food so that they can shop for and provide food for their families on a budget. 20 million kids in our country rely on nutrition from this program alone. Yet, it is not enough.

Please take some time during this summer to drop off food to our pantries. We know it can be difficult when there is so much to do, but it will make an unbelievable impact on a child, mother, father, or grandparent who is struggling. You don’t have to live in others’ shoes to be able to grasp how truly desperate the scenario can look. Hunger and food-insecurity can hit any person, or family.

Please call Donna Broecker, JFCS

Rhona Fischer

Family Assistance Program Coordinator, at 856-424- 1333 or email at dbroecker@jfedsnj.org to set up a time to drop off pantry items. Typical items we most need include: cereal, snacks, tomato sauce, pasta products, canned fish, peanut butter, jelly, juice, baby food and formula, canned fruit, rice, and boxed milk.

If you are low on time and unable to visit the store and shop, you may also donate funds so that we can do the pantry shopping for you, at: www.jfcssnj.org/foodpantry.

From the bottom of our hearts – and for all the kids out there this summer like Josh and Toby, we thank you so very much for your donations.

Mmeyers@jfedsnj.org

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