One thousand people.
One thousand stories.
One thousand paper plates.
For Food Bank of South Jersey CEO Val Traore, a few sentences written on each plate, from the people who rely on the Food Bank and its members, were the most direct way of sending a message to Trenton about the spike in need the Pennsauken-based organization faced, as donations have slipped and funding has fallen short.
That message was answered Wednesday, as Gov. Chris Christie came to the Food Bank to announce $2 million from the Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA)–money that had been promised in 2009, but never delivered–had finally been approved in a vote that morning.
“I got those plates, and I read many of them,” he said. “It seemed to me that there had to be something we could do to try to help with the really desperate situation that all of you had confronted here.”
One way to do that, Christie said, was to honor the commitments the DRPA made–money that was even more needed now, as the Food Bank has seen a jump of 70,000 more people needing some form of food assistance this year.
“Some of us have been suffering much more than others, and we need as a community to step up and try to help,” Christie said.
Before the announcement, the governor toured the warehouse, which was stocked more than it was before Thanksgiving, when entire bays stood empty from floor to ceiling. He spoke in front of the Food Bank’s Marketplace section, a collection of loose items on shelves that were jammed tight, as opposed to a month ago, when some shelves sported only one or two boxes or cans.
While things looked better, Traore said they still only have a 45-day supply of food on hand, and they still face a deficit of about $333,000 for 2011.
“We don’t want anyone to think our problems have been solved,” she said.
Still, the DRPA’s donation, which Traore said will likely be spread over two years, comes at an ideal time, and gives the organization a way to catch its breath at the end of a difficult year and get set for 2012.
“It takes our minds off, for at least the first couple months, of how we’re going to feed people,” she said.
That $2 million represents a total of about an eight- or nine-month supply of food for the organization, with all of it earmarked for acquiring and distributing food to its member food pantries and soup kitchens.
The Food Bank won’t be able to count for a windfall from the DRPA in the future, though.
Christie, who has slammed the organization for what he's termed “reckless and haphazard” spending, he said he talked with Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett on a comprimise effort about specific plans for some of the $30 million that had been set aside.
“It was my view that the projects were worthwhile projects that would help South Jersey,” Christie said.
Since Pennsylvania had already spent all their earmarked money–albeit not on Corbett’s watch–Christie said the two governors were able to come to an agreement on New Jersey using two-thirds of that $30 million to fund projects.
This is the end of the DRPA spending money on things other than infrastructure and things that go directly to benefitting commuters, Christie said.
“From here forward, we’ll have none of it,” he said.