Beating Back Food Insecurity

If the dinnertime discussion in your household is what you should have for dinner or where you should order it from, it might be hard to imagine that in New Jersey, 1 in 10 persons and 1 in 7 children live in households where there is no regular access to enough food to live healthy and active lives. Often people are forced to choose between paying rent and buying food, leaving little or no money to buy nutritious food to feed their families.

To combat what has become known as “food insecurity,” NCJW/Essex is trying to do its part to help. Career Services Manager Patty Kremen started an informal “food bank” known as Patty’s Pantry where she discreetly offers clients at the NCJW/Essex Center for Women food and gift cards to help them feed their families for several weeks at a time. Any food that is collected that Patty’s Pantry cannot use due to space restrictions is donated to Christine’s Kitchen, a food pantry in West Orange.

A dedicated team of amazing volunteers has been active as well! In March a kick-off Pack the Pantry committee meeting was well-attended. Participants were asked to be responsible for a two-week collection period during which they would solicit direct food donations as well as supermarket gift cards in $5 and $10 denominations. Many of the women chose to honor their birthday weeks to do the collection. During the meeting we brainstormed and came up with some terrific ideas as to how to get the word out about the needs of our Center for Women clients. This year we hope to hold a “mitzvah” event as well as to develop a process where we can solicit stores (other than supermarkets) that sell food.

The Pack the Pantry committee needs your help! In addition to direct donations that can be brought to the office during regular meetings or NCJW/Essex office hours, we are looking for ambassadors to help us at outside NCJW/Essex sponsored events. If you would like to learn more about how you can help or if you would like to join our committee, please email Dina Stambler, Director of Membership and Volunteer Outreach. We greatly appreciate your support—no matter how big or small.