PHILLIPSBURG (December 9, 2022) – The idea of food pantries having empty shelves, especially during the holiday season, is a devastating one, yet many pantries across the country, and here in New Jersey, have struggled to keep enough food in stock to support the growing number of families who are relying on them. Some food pantries are reporting a 280% increase in use. More working families are turning to food pantries to get by. Various post-COVID issues have altered the community currently utilizing food pantries, resulting in a distressing symbiosis – the need continues to grow while the resources are shrinking at an alarming rate. Food insecurity is real and it’s hitting home. How did this all happen? Several factors collided to form the perfect storm. The federal assistance made available during the pandemic has gone away. Food inflation is unprecedented. Gasoline prices are up. Rent is skyrocketing. Evictions are rising. Due to food supply chain issues, what once took three to four days for delivery, now sometimes takes six to eight weeks. Food banks accustomed to receiving food from the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA), now face reductions. The holiday season is further exacerbating the demand for food staples, presenting an immediate concern for Norwescap.
Mark Valli, CEO of Norwescap, said, “Food insecurity is a national problem. It’s worse now than it’s been in a long time, with a multitude of factors contributing to the problem.”
Recent feedback from several of Norwescap’s food pantry partners who are struggling to keep shelves sufficiently stocked necessitated development of a creative solution. Norwescap dialogued with pantry partners and came together with local grocery stores to create a solution to help hundreds of families get through the holidays: a six-week food-security solution to get non-perishable staples to their 110 partner food pantries in Warren, Hunterdon and Sussex counties. This joint strategy allows Norwescap to purchase bulk non-perishable foods from the local grocers at a reduced price from retail. The program launched on November 29 and will run through the first week of January 2023. “Pop-up distribution” days are offered at central locations where pantry partners can come and select the items they need to stock their shelves at no cost to them, such as rice, canned chili, spaghetti, spaghetti sauce, apple juice, applesauce, Cheerios and more – the staple items that our pantries need most right now. Expanded funding from the State of New Jersey this year gave Norwescap the additional power for these food purchases.
“Support from the State allowed us to utilize some of the funds to purchase this food from grocery stores in the counties we are serving,” explained Valli. “The food insecurity that arose during the pandemic prompted State leaders to dramatically expand funding, programs, and resources to address hunger. Never before have New Jersey foodbanks received this level of funding and support. Two to three years ago, this investment in food banks and other food security programs didn’t exist. Now, there is new investment in foodbanks and SNAP outreach, and other supports – they even recently created the New Jersey Office of Food Security – and all of this is helping us to find new, innovative ways to fight hunger in the State.”
This latest food-security action to counter supply challenges over the holidays is a perfect pairing between Norwescap and our local grocery retailers. Norwescap works to build food security in the region. The family-owned food stores in our neighborhoods have declared their commitment to food security as a major issue.
“Norwescap is so grateful for our loyal and supportive partners,” said Valli. “We are especially grateful for their partnership on this initiative.”