EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - Farmers are a demographic that many may not have thought of as being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. But New Jersey-centered organization Farmers Against Hunger has been helping local farmers as well as people in need during this difficult time. Since the pandemic started ten weeks ago, Farmers Against Hunger has donated 300,000 pounds of fruit, vegetables, dairy, and non-perishables to people all across the state.
Just before the pandemic hit, Farmers Against Hunger was in the process of settling an agreement with Burlington County to set up a new headquarters there. The agreement is still in progress, according to FAH member Elyse Yerrapathruni, but the pandemic has caused the organization’s priorities to shift somewhat. In addition to their normal food donations, the organization has also helped with 14 different direct-to-resident emergency food distributions, with three scheduled for the next few weeks and more expected in the future. “We plan to continue if the increased need persists,” says Yerrapathruni. “We hope this will help both families affected by unemployment and the farmers that are navigating new territory.”
COVID-19 has had a negative impact on local farmers, with many struggling to sell produce due to the current circumstances. Shortage of labor may also be an issue. Many farmers in New Jersey have just started the summer season, so the future effects of the pandemic on their work is unclear. Surplus produce will definitely be an issue, though, which is where Farmers Against Hunger comes in - they are a conduit through which farmers can donate their surplus produce, and distribute it to people in need.
Farmers Against Hunger’s off-season programs have been put on hold, but the organization is still doing a lot to help during these difficult times. Social distancing measures have been put in place, and donated food is now being sorted and separated in order to limit contact. People in lower-class conditions are more susceptible to COVID-19 than others, so the extra care is important. Yerrapathruni has said that these changes have “increased staff hours, fuel costs, and truck maintenance fees… [but] fortunately, we have applied for and received emergency funding through several grants to offset these costs.”
If the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Yerrapathruni says that Farmers Against Hunger will continue to host pop-up food distribution events to help those who are struggling to get food, and that deliveries will be increased. Though they may have to make sacrifices, it is important that they help others during this time of need. Farmers Against Hunger takes both online and mailed donations on their website, for any who would like to get involved with their cause. More information can be found at http://www.njagsociety.org.