BY HEATHER NELSON
RED BANK – Need and hunger have no season, but donations sure do. During the summer months, local food pantries struggle to keep their shelves stocked to feed the families that depend on their services. “It is not uncommon for most food pantries to be forgotten this time of year,” said Jesabel Cruz, the office manager at The Salvation Army Red Bank Corps. “Perhaps it is because the holidays and their spirit of giving seems so far away, or because donors are away on vacation, but such is the case.”
Though the flow of donations onto the shelves of food pantries decreases in the summer, the demand for the products even increase. During the summer, the children who would normally be in school for lunchtime now require an extra meal that their families need to provide, which can be a heavy financial burden.
“We see more demand for our programs and our services,” said Kate McMahon, the director of development at Lunch Break. “Every year the increase in unprecedented. Last year we served 63,000 meals, and a lot of those are in the summer, especially for children.”
Because of this, food pantries are forced to stretch their budgets to buy more food from the food banks so they can provide for their many guests. According to McMahon, Lunch Break will be helping over 2,000 needy families by the end of 2015 and its soup kitchen already serves people from every town of Monmouth County.
To sustain this high traffic, Lunch Break has “had to constantly reach out for more funding from many donors and companies” to compensate for the lack of donations.
For these food pantries, closing their doors or turning people away is not an option. McMahon explained how heart breaking it can be to see the hungry people, and especially, children, come as guests looking for a meal.
“When you see the little kids come in, you see that they’re very hungry,” McMahon said. “A lot of kids around here are worrying about when the next good wave will come, but these kids are worrying about where the next meal will be. We could never deny them the food they need.”
So, the dedicated volunteers and staff work “around the clock,” according to McMahon, to ensure that the kitchen will always be up and running and the shelves always stocked.
“We are fortunate that those that come seeking assistance and are able to leave with a cart full of food, and we hope that this will always be the case, since need has no season,” Cruz said, hoping that donations will never stop coming in.
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