The hustle of the holidays has ended, which means empty spaces and shelves in homes but also at the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, Southern Branch in Egg Harbor Township.
“Everything you see here will be gone in a matter of weeks,” pantry manager Debra Fleischer said.
Volunteers at the food bank on the Black Horse Pike were restocking shelves Friday with reserves from donations that came in during November and December, but Fleischer said the surplus was limited, especially going into a new year.
Large boxes filled with fresh produce and nonperishable goods sat in what Fleischer called the staging area, waiting for daily pickup by local organizations the pantry supplies with food and daily necessities.
“The Community FoodBank provides food supplies to 300 partner agencies — smaller pantries, soup kitchens and area shelters,” said Renate Taylor, development officer for the Community FoodBank of New Jersey.
Along with supplying local organizations, such as the Atlantic City Rescue Mission and Sister Jean’s Kitchen, the food bank’s on-site choice pantry serves nearly 800 families.
Taylor said the Community FoodBank increased distribution 236 percent since July.
“Unfortunately, the need continues to grow,” Taylor said. “We are very challenged. We are giving away close to a million pounds of food a month to three counties.”
The pantry’s shelves look like those of any large supermarket, with one exception: some are completely empty.
“People donate a lot of food around the holidays, but we will distribute all of that before the new year,” Fleischer said.
Longport Media’s annual food drive, Operation Help, which collected donations for five days before Thanksgiving, brought in more than 15,000 pounds of food, which was quickly distributed, Taylor said.
“I need to thank our community — we have been so blessed with donations, with food drives,” Taylor said. “Unfortunately, in January, our need remains the same, but our donations plummet.”
According to an annual report by the FoodBank, more than 10 million pounds of food was distributed in Atlantic, Cape May and Ocean counties in the 2017 fiscal year. Looking ahead to the 2018 fiscal year, the FoodBank said it was trending toward distributing 14 million pounds of food.
The next donation event on the FoodBank’s schedule is the Letter Carrier’s Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive in May.
“We’re hoping the community will come together to help us stock the shelves,” Taylor said.