CAMDEN, NJ — When Gerald Davis, executive director of non-profit Touch New Jersey, recently got on the phone with Philabundance — the Philadelphia area's largest hunger relief organization — one semi-truck was on the table.
The 1,600 boxes of food — including fresh meat, dairy, fruits, vegetables, bread and hot plates — on 14 pallets would seem like enough.
“But by the time we finished speaking, there was the potential of three trucks in all,” Davis told TAPinto Camden.
He said he didn’t hesitate — excited for the prospect of continuing to provide to Camden residents amid the financial hardships brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although Gov. Phil Murphy has begun to lift restrictions statewide, easing the way for a “new normal” to set in and helping local economies begin to get their footing, Davis said the need for Touch New Jersey’s pop-up food pantries hasn't slowed down.
“We operate in a food desert where for many people there isn’t an immediate supermarket available and that’s for those who do have the money to leave the house for food,” Davis added. “Outreaches like ours are required to exist in Camden. And not only us that provide food, but others such as Guadalupe Family Services that have helped families with pampers.”
The 12,000 pounds of food distributed weekly has nearly doubled to 20,000 pounds as the pandemic has unfolded, Davis estimated.
“Even in a non-pandemic time, we’re busy at this time,” Davis said.
Residents will be able to walk away with between 40 and 50 pounds of food at various pop-up food pantries this week.
The first two will run Tuesday at the Touch NJ Food Pantry (North 6th and State streets) at 10 a.m. and Miguel’s Pharmacy (3213 River Rd.) at 11 a.m.
Next, Touch New Jersey, Camden Lutheran Housing Inc. (CLHI), Parents for Great Camden Schools, and Mastery will host a food pantry Wednesday at 11 a.m. at Mastery High School of Camden at 800 Erie St.
“Progress has been made, we’re happy to see that corner stores have started to reopen for example which is an important thing for the city of Camden, but we know during the pandemic that for families to have two weeks of food still is a challenge,” said Jessica Franzini, executive director of CLHI, over the phone. “These food days are critical.”
Franzini said anyone with questions over Wednesday’s walk-up/drive-thru food pantry could reach her at email@example.com or 856-342-8088.
A pop-up food pantry will also be hosted with help of the Board of Chosen Freeholders on Friday at Antioch Baptist Church (690 Ferry Ave.) at 9 a.m. Another pantry will be held at 11 a.m. on Friday at St. John's Church (220 North 27th St.)
An ID and registration is not required for anyone visiting a pantry. However, you must wear a face mask and adhere to social distancing while onsite.
The all-volunteer food pantry, will continuously post about new dates on its Facebook page. It is based out of New Beginnings Church (549 State St.) and provides food to low-income, elderly and disabled residents every Wednesday.