It's a big Northeast chain, but ShopRite has been providing support for local communities - such as Somers Point and the food bank in Egg Harbor Township - for the past four years.

ShopRite offers an optional program to its stores in support of National Hunger Awareness Month, called "Help Bag Hunger," in which local officials help customers bag their items at the checkout lines of stores, in order to raise local awareness about community hunger.

In the past, the Somers Point ShopRite has raised more than $22,000 for the food bank in Egg Harbor Township, said Assistant Manager Pete Forcinito.

Kimberly Arroyo, director of agency relations and programs at the Community FoodBank of New Jersey-Southern Branch in Egg Harbor Township, said the donations from the Somers Point ShopRite's Help Bag Hunger event go toward purchasing food goods.

"This month is Hunger Action Month. It brings hunger awareness to our nation and shows how much of a problem it is," Arroyo said.

The Community FoodBank of New Jersey says the goal of Hunger Action Month is to "mobilize the public to act on behalf of Feeding America and our food bank network."

The food bank provides suggestions on how to raise awareness about community hunger with their "30 ways in 30 days" calendar. Activities include changing your Facebook or Twitter profile picture to one that supports Hunger Awareness Month, or setting an empty plate at the dinner table as a reminder of those struggling with hunger, and then taking and posting a photo onto social media sites.

Somers Point City Councilman Sean McGuigan, who helped bag at the event Sept. 18, said ShopRite is an excellent community corporation that supports many local endeavors in Somers Point.

"Any little bit I can do to help that, I'm going to do it," he said.

Another helper, Somers Point police Lt. Anthony DiSciascio, said the department partners with the business community, and ShopRite has done so much to assist the police department with community awareness programs.

"We felt like with (ShopRite) being a partner, we can assist them with whatever they need when it comes to community events," DiSciascio said. "They're always here for the community, that's a plus."

DiSciascio said the event, which garners donations - typically in the form of a dollar at the end of transactions with customers - is more successful because of the presence of community members who come to bag.

"Everybody is more curious what we're doing, once we explain the project," he said. "Everyone seems to donate, they're very supportive."

Many people do not think hunger is a problem in their communities, Arroyo said. But she also said that places like New Jersey's shore are especially vulnerable today because of recent hardships, such as the effects of Hurricane Sandy.

Arroyo said the number of families using the food bank in New Jersey has risen about 40 percent over the last year and a half to two years, collectively.

"People seem to think that hunger and poverty are only urban problems, but we see a lot of rural poverty here," Arroyo said. "People who have never been to a food pantry before, these are the faces we're seeing."

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