It was only noon and Kimberly Arroyo, program director for the Community FoodBank of New Jersey Southern Branch in Egg Harbor Township, was worried as she looked at the line of people snaking out the door of the Patsy Wallace Center in Atlantic City on Tuesday.
“I anticipated 500 people,” she said. “But I think we might get closer to 1,000.”
Empty boxes that had held applesauce, apple juice, coleslaw mix, blocks of cheese and cases of Progresso soup piled up in the corner as residents pulling empty carts or strollers lined up in the rain outside the center. Arroyo began rationing the supplies, worried she might run out before the distribution officially ended at 2 p.m.
“As fast as we get it in, we’re giving it out,” Arroyo said. She said storm victims include not just those whose homes were damaged, but residents whose jobs were put on hold during the storm and may be permanently lost.
“Many lost a week or two of work,” she said. “We are seeing a lot of new people we’ve never seen before, plus we are still supplying our regular pantries.”
Tuesday’s distribution was coordinated by city officials and participants were asked for proof of residency at the door.
Brian Gunter and Tammy Bostic distributed lunch to their regular Meals on Wheels participants at the center, and they were forced to tell many residents that no, the chicken salad platter was not available to everyone, just the program’s clients.
Gerald McDaniel transferred his food supply into heavy plastic bags for the trip back to Stanley Holmes Village, which lost power and has been having intermittent outages as repairs are made, he said.
“Every little bit helps,” he said. “The big problem was having no electricity.”
Margie Barham, director of the local food bank, said they have not had time yet to calculate how much more food has been distributed just for storm relief, but it has been substantial, and it won’t end anytime soon.
“The need continues and will continue,” she said.
Arroyo said they have an ongoing need for money, food donations and volunteers to help coordinate and distribute goods. She said even after power was restored, many people lost their stoves and either can’t cook or are using toaster ovens or hot plates. She said donations of prepared foods such as peanut butter, tuna or canned meat that don’t need cooking are especially helpful. She cited the donation by Progresso of nine trailers of canned soup as an easy item that needs little preparation.
“The meatball soup is like a meal in a can,” she said.
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