EAST ORANGE, NJ - Starting July 3, Essex County residents can find Meeting Essential Needs with Dignity (MEND) labeled receptacles at the East Orange Free Public Library and at 21 additional Essex County libraries. MEND is collecting healthy non-perishable food to support 16 pantries across the county.

When school ends hunger begins for 44,471 children right here in Essex County. Many families depend on the school lunch and breakfast project to help fulfill their children’s nutritional needs. On limited food budgets, during the summer months, families are left struggling to find a way to provide three meals a day for hungry children.  

A guideline for making your unexpired non-perishable food donation a healthful one includes looking for items labeled: No Sugar Added, 100% Juice, No Salt Added, Low Sodium, 100% Whole Grain, and Canned in Water. For shelf-stable-milk, look for Low Fat (1%) or Fat Free (skim).

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The Essex County public libraries participating in the community food drive are located in Belleville, Bloomfield, Cedar Grove, East Orange, Fairfield, Glen Ridge, Irvington, Livingston, Maplewood, Millburn, Newark, Orange, South Orange, and West Orange. 

According to the New Jersey County Health Rankings for 2016, Essex County ranked fifth worst overall in the state for the percentage of children living in poverty in the county (23%).  In towns where MEND food pantries are located, however, the percentage of people living in poverty can be higher.  For example, according to the U.S. Census, in Newark, NJ, where eight MEND food pantries are located, 29% of the population lives in poverty.

MEND, a 501(c)3 recognized charitable organization, served more than 109,000 Essex County residents in 2016. To learn more about MEND, please visit http://mendnj.org.  Contact MEND: info@mendnj.org; 976-266-7941.