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In Burlington 46-year-old Donna Hopkins clutched her dogs and cried uncontrollably as she waited in line at a local food pantry supplied by the Food Bank of South Jersey.
Says Food Bank SJ CEO Val Traore, “Food drives are helpful but money is better as we can get truckloads of nutrient-dense food from other parts of the country for pennies on the dollar."
After her Bayville home was badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy, she moved in with her sister’s family where she is sleeping on the couch and trying to find a way to provide for herself.
This is just one of the many sad, sad stories that are being told every day at shelters in the flood-ravaged areas of the state.
PHOTO: David Prado of the Food Bank of South Jersey distributes sustenance to Camden residents in need after Sandy's rampage. Photo courtesy Brant Beaupre, B2 Designs.
Val Traore, CEO of the Food Bank, is blunt: “If you want to make sure your money is being used properly and is going directly to the people who need it the most, please consider giving to the Food Bank of South Jersey.”
Donations can be made online at foodbanksj.org, or mailed to 1501 John Tipton Blvd., Pennsauken, 08810.
In the northern part of the state, during a regular week, Table to Table, Northeast New Jersey’s only non-profit food rescue program, will collect donations from up to 150 professional food establishments to distribute throughout Bergen, Passaic, Hudson and Essex counties.
When Hurricane Sandy’s high waters and fierce winds swamped kitchens and warehouses, overnight the issue of hunger was attacked from both sides. The numbers of displaced people desperately in need of a meal, particularly in riverside areas like Hoboken, multiplied dramatically, while many of those trying to help were themselves literally struggling to stay above the relentless tide.
“So many donors lost power or were closed,” says Table to Table’s Executive Director, Ilene Isaacs. “Food is significantly limited and all our agencies have an increased need. We are looking anyplace we can for additional food.”
Since 1999, the food rescue organization has been operating five refrigerated trucks that travel around the area picking up unsold meat, dairy, produce and baked goods, that are nearing expiration, from restaurants, supermarkets and food businesses. On the same day, those donations find their way to nearly 70 homeless shelters, elder care facilities, homes for victims of domestic violence, and pantries serving the working poor.
Last year’s deliveries provided enough food for more than nine million meals, all without the need for warehousing or government assistance.
“I think people understand and recognize how fortunate they are. Some may have been inconvenienced, but other people have been devastated,” says Isaacs. “Anyone who has ever thought about donating food, please, this is the time to step up.”
Over the weekend, Isaacs sent me the following:
"During a typical two week period we pick up an average of 225,000 pounds of donated food. During the past two week period, we picked up 167,000 pounds.
"Quite a significant difference under any circumstances, but devastating considering the increase in need."
Table to Table, tabletotable.org, can be reached at 201-444-5500 or 201-887-7839 to arrange immediate pick up.
Here are some additional relief efforts from the food community:
Chakra, Paramus, chakrarestaurant.com:
11/12/12. The restaurant will be hosting a multi-course dinner in conjunction with Justin Winery, justinwine.com. $25 of the $79 cost will go to the Community Food Bank of New Jersey.
Pilsener Haus, Hoboken, pilsenerhaus.com
11/12/12. A bier tasting event will benefit the Rebuild Hoboken Relief Fund, rebuildhoboken.org.
11/15/12 Rebuild Hoboken Bash, sponsored by Moet Hennessy USA will include live music and a raffle. Thirty percent of bar profits will go to the charity.
11/19/12. Thanksgiving Food Drive. Between 6 and 9 p.m. receive a free beer with donation.
The Institute of Culinary Education (ICE), Manhattan, iceculinary.com:
11/18/12. A cooking class featuring New York steakhouse favorites will benefit Good Company Hospitality Relief Fund.
11/27/12. Italian Specialties class will benefit Hurricane Sandy NJ Relief Fund
11/28/12. Sweet and salty baking will benefit Stephen Stiller Tunnel to Towers Foundation.
SUZANNE ZIMMER LOWERY is a food writer, pastry chef and culinary instructor at a number of New Jersey cooking schools. Find out more about her at suzannelowery.com.