EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Thousands of people in need across the state, including Buena’s Sandra Jones, can have a healthy meal thanks to a donation of more than 13,000 pounds of food to the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, a member of Feeding America.

“We were having a really hard time being able to purchase food, and so this really helps a lot,” the 60-year-old Jones said. “We were having a hard time with our finances, so food was the last thing (on our minds).”

Hoboken Farms donated about 7,100 pounds of sauce, and Banza donated about 6,300 pounds of chickpea pasta. That totals about 50,000 servings for people throughout New Jersey.

The food bank’s Southern Branch held a tasting of the pasta and sauce Monday.

Chef Stephan Johnson, of Dock’s Oyster House in Atlantic City, volunteered to prepare the meal.

Johnson grew up in the projects of upstate New York in a family of six, and said he understands what it is like to go without food.

“I just love giving back,” Johnson said. “I went to sleep hungry some days. It’s easy for me to come and help out.”

“Today, the hungry are more fortunate because of this food bank and the community,” he added. “So whenever as a chef I can come help out, I help out.”

Jones said she is amazed at how much food the food bank gives out.

“The thing that I really like the best is all of the fresh produce,” Jones said. “I can put it up for the winter. I can freeze it. My husband and I have to watch our diets, so we can eat all of the fruits and vegetables. They’re much healthier for us.”

Hoboken Farms says its sauces are certified non-GMO, gluten-free, low in sodium, have zero added sugar and three times the amount of olive oil as comparable products, a release from the food bank states.

Banza claims its chickpea pasta is non-GMO and gluten-free, with double the protein, four times the fiber and 40 percent fewer carbs than regular pasta, the release said.

The partnership with Banza and Hoboken Farms fits with the food bank’s initiative to address hunger as a health issue.

“Bringing together Hoboken Farms and Banza is completely in line with our strategy to provide greater access to health choices for food-insecure households,” said Richard Uniacke, vice president of the Community FoodBank of New Jersey’s Southern Branch. “Together we are eliminating the inequity of food access and working to make people healthier. It’s a perfect combination.”

Nearly 340,000 of the more than 1 million New Jersey residents who struggle with hunger are children, according to a release from the food bank.

The Press previously reported the four counties in our coverage area — Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland and Ocean — have the highest rates in the state of children who lack access to healthy and nutritious foods, both in quality and quantity, according to the Feeding America organization.

The Community FoodBank of New Jersey distributed more than 43 million pounds of food last year to its more than 1,000 community partners, including child and senior feeding programs, emergency shelters, mobile pantries, pantries and soup kitchens.

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