Since the beginning of the pandemic, the number of families and individuals requesting assistance from the Jewish Family & Children’s Services of Northern New Jersey’s food pantry in Teaneck has increased by 30 percent. Last year, JFCS provided food to 185 families and individuals; between March and July, 143 clients used the pantry 257 times. The pantry provides personal care and household cleaning supplies as well as perishable and non-perishable food items. It averages about 10 pickup appointments a day.
One in 10 residents in Bergen, Passaic, and Hudson counties, the JFCS’ catchment area, are food insecure and struggle to provide food for themselves and their families. The pandemic brought food insecurity and financial difficulties to many homes that previously did not have them. JFCS also offers families and individuals emergency benefits through FEMA which distributes housing assistance, gift cards for food and medicine, and case management to help navigate government bureaucracy and community resources to obtain benefits, including food stamps, Medicaid, and social security disability.
According to Michael Dworkis, director of agency intake and case management services at JFCS, “There are so many different ways community members can get involved with our pantry: they can organize a food drive, volunteer to pick up from food from stores and vendors, deliver food to clients who are unable to pick up the food themselves, or make a tax-deductible donation.”
The JFCS pantry is stocked with donations from nonprofits, including the Community Food Bank of New Jersey, and local stores such as Target, Stop & Shop, ShopRite, and Trader Joe’s. Normally the community helps with volunteer food drives, but because of the pandemic, events had to be canceled, and that led to a significant inventory shortfall. But thanks to a generous grant from the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, JFCS is able to buy low-cost and bulk items to make up for that shortfall.
The pandemic also caused changes to the pantry’s pickup procedures. To ensure the safety of both clients and staff, JFCS has been pre-packaging bags of assorted grocery and home essentials and arranging for contactless, appointment-only pickup or delivery.
For more information or an appointment, call (201) 837-9090, go to jfcsnnj.org, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.