HAWTHORNE, NJ - Martha’s Pantry started from humble beginnings less than a year ago, yet in that time they have become a staple of Hawthorne’s community. On Saturday morning, the food pantry was open once again, with volunteers from St. Clement’s Episcopal Church giving bags of necessities to local residents with a drive-through service. By noon, they had shared food with over 120 locals, a record for the food pantry.

Because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the pantry’s staff have had to modify their normal operating procedures. Typically, clients of the pantry would be allowed to enter the church and choose what items they need from the well-organized pantry. They are required to register and provide proof of residency as well as need, including documentation for SNAP or WIC benefits. Given the extraordinary circumstances surrounding the pandemic, however, the pantry’s volunteers and clergy felt these standard operating procedures needed to be modified.

On Saturday morning, clients lined up in their cars a half hour early to receive bags of food. Volunteers were already waiting outside with masks on and bags at the ready. They ask how many people are in need: “How many adults and how many kids?” With that, the volunteers snap into a flurry of arranging bags of food, toilet paper, paper towels, shampoo, hand soap, and anything else available for their clients. If any snacks, toys, or books for children have been donated, they will receive them as well. Like many local retail stores, Martha’s Pantry operates on a "contactless" basis. They ask their clients to open the trunks of their cars and all items are placed inside, without physical contact between clients or volunteers.

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This past weekend, Martha’s Pantry saw a 60% increase over their previous highest number of people helped. The changes coming to unemployment benefits no doubt weighed on the minds of many. Several clients mentioned being laid off in March and still being out of work, surviving on unemployment benefits and organizations like Martha’s Pantry.

The food pantry can be a facilitator for those in the community who have been fortunate enough to keep their jobs and wish to help those who have lost theirs. Martha’s Pantry operates on donations from the parish and surrounding community. They are currently in need of non-perishable foods such as tomato sauce, pasta, shelf stable milk, coffee, and diapers, laundry detergent, toilet paper, paper towels, and napkins. Anyone who wishes to donate these items or any others are welcome to visit St. Clement’s Church on Tuesdays or Thursdays between 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. to drop off in person. Outside of these times, donations can be made by appointment at the church.

Martha’s Pantry will next be open on Saturday, August 15, from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. If residents are in need and not able to visit the church during these hours, a volunteer can meet them at the church by appointment or a bag can be delivered. The pantry can be reached via the church office at (973) 427-8118 or through their Facebook page.

Martha's Pantry is one of a few food pantries in Hawthorne.  The borough maintains a non-perishable food pantry through the Health Department, as Mayor Goldberg has said in his twice-a-week letters to the borough.

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