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Nine years ago, 58-year-old Linda Little’s world turned upside down after she was diagnosed with cancer.
The Egg Harbor Township resident lost her job, and her skyrocketing medical bills promptly wiped out her savings. Little said she was no longer able to donate to her favorite organization, the Community FoodBank of New Jersey. Instead, she became a client.
“Which was strange you know, but I had no money coming in. Nothing,” she said.
Little applied for New Jersey’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, SNAP, what used to be called food stamps.
“I asked the gentleman, I said can I go to the FoodBank, and he was like, sure, go this afternoon, they were wonderful, they were wonderful, I went over there and they don’t turn anyone away, they will take care of you,” she said.
Elizabeth McCarthy, the president and CEO of the Community FoodBank of New Jersey said that this week, her organization will distribute about 85,000 turkeys, roasters, and hams as well as packages for the Thanksgiving table.
“We know about three-quarters of a million people in New Jersey are food insecure, almost 200,000 of whom are children,” she said.
The United States Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe food.
Even though inflation has eased a bit now, prices have just been so high for food and the cost of living, that we’ve actually seen an increase in the last year for the need for food,” McCarthy said.
The food bank was launched nearly 50 years ago from the back of a station wagon. It now has over 200 employees who fight hunger every day and distributes 109 million pounds of food annually. Last year, it distributed more than 90 million meals, 34% of which was fresh produce, she said.
“The people who come to us often are working,” McCarthy said, “It’s that their wages can’t keep up with the costs of living for them.”
McCarthy said all year long the Community FoodBank of New Jersey works with about 750 partners statewide to distribute food on a daily basis to pantries and soup kitchens. Her team is also trying to address the root causes of hunger.
“So doing some job training, getting people involved with SNAP who are eligible but just didn’t realize it,” she said.
Little, who now volunteers at the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, says many of her friends have also been helped by the group.
You can get more information at cfbnj.org
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