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Camden Co. freeholders start weekly food drive to assist overburdened pantries

Camden County Freeholder Jon Young (center) and other volunteers and county employees carry boxes of fresh fruit and milk to a waiting car at Antioch Baptist Church.  (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Camden County Freeholder Jon Young (center) and other volunteers and county employees carry boxes of fresh fruit and milk to a waiting car at Antioch Baptist Church. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

The Camden County Board of Freeholders hosted one of its first food drives with nonprofit Touch New Jersey Food Alliance to help residents experiencing food insecurity due to the pandemic’s ripple effect.

County Freeholder Jonathan Young said Friday’s food drive, held at Antioch Baptist Church and at St. John Baptist Church in Camden, fed a little over 200 families this morning, with 1,200 boxes of fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy products.

Young said the freeholders want to continue to host these food drives weekly through the beginning of August to help county residents — particularly those experiencing unemployment and who usually count on schools to feed their kids for breakfast and lunch.

New Jersey’s unemployment rate jumped to 15.3% for the month of April. The state lost 758,000 jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a release from the state Labor Department on Thursday. The unemployment rate for New Jersey was at 3.7% in March.

“They fell on some hard times, but most of them have been on hard times already,” Young said. “When you think about this, It really puts it into perspective: Is this a short-term fix we can do? I am really looking forward to doing something on a long-term basis to make sure our communities are being fed.”

Next Friday starting at 11 a.m., the freeholders will be hosting another food drive at Camden County College in Blackwood.

Young added that these food drives also help lift the burden off small pantries in the state which have seen a high uptick in need.

“It really starts to push an extra strain on the smaller pantries that already operate for folks who need food,” Young said. “Now you have to find a way to feed the max, to feed a lot of people in a short period of time to make sure they can live some kind of normal life.”

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The freeholder said they will update residents each week on the county website with where the next food drive will be held.

He also noted that seeing the great need for food security among residents has inspired him and other freeholders to help Camden County citizens — particularly people living in the city of Camden — get into growing their own fruits and vegetables.

Young said they hope to partner with Farmers Against Hunger to concentrate on creating urban community gardens in Camden.

“This has really opened my eyes to a lot and I think we are going to get really aggressive toward our sustainable and agricultural plan in Camden County,” Young said.

You can find a list of food banks located in South Jersey here.

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