FAIRVIEW, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Across Bergen County, nonprofits are stepping up to find sustainable ways to meet the needs of resident struggling with food insecurity.
A room that used to be used for counseling is now filled with snacks from floor to ceiling. Paper bags and grocery carts replace desks next door, and bags filled with food line hallways and office spaces.
A lot has changed at the Franciscan Community Development Center in Fairview, New Jersey, since the start of the pandemic.
“This is not 100% our work, it’s the work of the boss,” Sister Gloria Aranguiz said.
The center’s executive director, Susan Colacurcio, tells CBS2’s Vanessa Murdock that instead of offering pro bono tax prep, legal services, education and emergency food, the small but mighty group of women volunteers spends countless hours to package, prep and hand out donated food to families – enough to feed them for a month.
“You have to be way ahead the game to be on your game,” Colacurcio said.
The emergency back-up food pantry helped about 30 families a month. Now they’re helping more than 1,500 families every month.
“Our food pantry increased about 800% and it’s still growing,” Colacurcio said.
That’s why Colacurcio is thrilled to be part of the new Bergen County Food Security Task Force.
The task force is the brainchild of Bergen County Freeholder, Tracy Zur.
“Over 10% of our population in Bergen County were unemployed. We’ve seen numbers at our food pantries at least double, in some places triple,” Zur said.
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Zur says a cross section of large and small nonprofits sit on the task force, which will allow for real conversations about how the county is providing for those in need.
“Connecting the dots between food suppliers and those who are on the front lines in our food pantries,” Zur said.
“No one should be hungry in Bergen County and yet they are,” said Lynne Algrant, vice president for Planning, Development and Communication at Greater Bergen Community Action.
Algrant says she believes the task force can answer the question, “How do we come out of this situation in a stronger place than we were when we went in?”
She also believes it will help her organization better connect clients with the nourishment they need.
“I think it’s going to be an inspiration,” Colacurcio said.
An inspiration just like the team of volunteers — stopping at nothing to make sure no mouth goes unfed.
The task force will meet monthly with a lot of work going on in between. A survey has already been sent to all county food pantries to assess infrastructure, capacity and volunteer needs.