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Christie, DRPA Bring Help to Food Bank of South Jersey

A $2 million donation will give the organization an eight- to nine-month supply of food.

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.

Bill Bondar December 15, 2011 at 12:58 PM
The NJ and PA DRPA board are like a bunch of thieves splitting up the spoils. The PA side got to spend their take. Now the NJ side are taking theirs. Hello? This is money you DRPA members stole from the toll paying public that you should have returned. Oh, It makes good news print when you give it to a food bank, If you were really in a generous mood, you could have given more to the food bank. Coorper Hospital doesnt need the money for another wing, Norcorss has deep pockets, he could have funded that project himself. This whole episode with what to do with the stolen tollpayers money has been a travisty from the beginning. Gov. Christie, I am disapointed that you let the DRPA get away with this. You should replace Jeff Nash and the entire DRPA board immediately.
Our Town December 15, 2011 at 02:21 PM
Nothing like a little mandatory charity paid for by all of those using the bridges to commute. Didn't the tolls recently rise to $5 too? Extra cash for the DRPA to give away and to revitalize the prison into what, another Camden wasteland?
John Reynolds December 15, 2011 at 02:55 PM
It's easy being charitable when you're giving away other people's money. Let me know when Jeffrey Nash and the other DRPA clowns give their own money to charity.
Ric December 15, 2011 at 03:26 PM
Shenanigans like this I expect from the DRPA, but now Christie is jumping in on the looting of bridge tolls? There is nothing like a hypocritical politician. Christie also approved giving toll money for “rebuilding a rowing course along the Cooper River.” I agree giving to the food bank is a good idea if it came from the state but not with bridge tools. Giving money to Copper is ridiculous – it is going to be used to make a building where rich doctors get richer and not subsidy health care for those that cannot afford it. Let the doctors pay for the building. Christie is no better than any of the governors before him.
Patrick December 15, 2011 at 10:23 PM
With tax time coming, those of you who ride PATCO now have a nice tax deduction. The way I see it, the donation came from the riders, therefore the riders should claim a deduction. Determine the ridership numbers divide it out or be real and deduct all the money you gave PATCO. Who can prove its wasn't your dollars that were donated. This is not the first time DRPA donated money. Will it be the last? I moved away from South Jersey after riding PATCO for many many years to my center city job. What do you think? Patrick from Maine.
Jack S December 16, 2011 at 07:16 PM
The focus on the Food Bank giveaway in not the real headline. The fact that Governor Christie is allowing DRPA to use part of this $20 million to fund another Transit Village -- this time, at Ferry Avenue -- even after the Collingswood Transit Village has failed, is a real crime. It's also a crime that part of the money will go to "redevelop" the vacant lot left by tearing down the Riverfront Prison in Camden. Why did one of the newest state prisons need to be torn down in the first place, at a time when many of us pointed out publicly that the prison space was needed for an increasing prison population. Now that the crime rate in Camden and neighboring areas is skyrocketing, will Governor Christie now have to rebuild what he allowed to be torn down? Rather than "redeveloping" a vacant lot at the former prison, Governor Christie should cut his losses and return the money to the tollpayers or, at a minimum, use it to pay down DRPA's $1 billion debt.
Samantha McCall January 02, 2012 at 05:42 PM
Patrick, I like your way of thinking! I ride that bridge every day, with the signs looming over my head, "YOUR TOLL DOLLARS AT WORK." It should say, "YOUR TOLL DOLLARS AT WORK, AND DONATIONS TO GEORGE NORCROSS." George Norcross has his name all over this, along with Steve Sweeney, who's brother sits on the board of the DRPA. What infuriates me, I ride the Walt Whitman Bridge every day to work, and they eliminated the commuter discount, however, they have all this money to donate. I have written the DRPA about this, and cannot seem to get a straight answer. I should be the one who decides where my donations go, not a board of cronies looking out for themselves.

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