Patch staffers in South Jersey woke up bright and early on Wednesday for a volunteerism gig that hit home—helping out at the Food Bank of South Jersey.
Our volunteering day is part of an initiative promoted by Patch nationwide. Give 5 encourages employees to spend five days per year volunteering with an organization that supports our local Patch communities. Past projects have included park cleanups and even going barefoot for a day. This time, we decided to do a project together.
The Food Bank of South Jersey fits the bill perfectly. The food bank serves four counties—Camden, Gloucester, Salem and part of Burlington—and runs programs that Patch has written about in the past, including its Just Peachy salsa campaign. So, we decided as a group to get a first-hand look into the food bank’s operations by spending the morning volunteering there.
Led by the food bank’s community engagement coordinator, Sabine Mehnert, Patch staff first toured the facility before getting down to work. Mehnert shared truly staggering statistics on hunger in our area:
- 173,000 people—1 in 6—go hungry in our area every day. That number has increased from 102,000 in recent times. These are our neighbors, Mehnert stressed.
- 57,000 of those are children, who often cannot do anything to address their situation alone.
- The Food Bank of South Jersey has distributed 120 million pounds of food, enough for 101 million meals, since its inception in 1985.
- More than 250 community organizations, including food pantries, schools and churches, work with the food bank to distribute food to those in need.
- The food bank’s 45,000 square feet of storage space simply isn’t enough to meet South Jersey’s full hunger needs. The food bank is undergoing an expansion to add on 20,000 more square feet.
On that last point, Mehnert noted, the food bank “isn’t expanding because we want to—it’s because we have to.”
We started the morning by finishing food packs filled with staple items for senior citizens. Then, it was time to sort. Many donations come from individuals and must be sorted into food types so the food bank can put together bags of nutritionally balanced meals for the people it serves. Volunteers check every item for an expiration date and excessive wear and tear before sorting. Patch employees left the food bank with a new appreciation of just how many people work toward feeding the hungry in our area and how many people are in need.
There are ways you can help, too:
- Cash is king. For every $1 donation, the Food Bank of South Jersey can provide five entire meals based on the organization’s purchasing power. Learn more here.
- Have a Thanksgiving turkey you’re not going to use? On Saturday, Nov. 17, participate in the drive through turkey drive. You don’t even have to get out of your car, just drive up to the food bank and a volunteer will take your turkey for a needy family to eat on Thanksgiving. Get the details.
- Food donations are accepted at the food bank (1501 John Tipton Blvd., Pennsauken) from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday-Friday.
- The Food Bank of South Jersey is always looking for individual and group volunteers. Learn about volunteering opportunities here.
Our thanks to the Food Bank of South Jersey for hosting us. Have an idea for where South Jersey Patch employees should spend our next Give 5 volunteer day? Tell us in the comments.