MORRIS COUNTY, NJ - The Interfaith Food Pantry, Inc., which serves Morris County residents in need by providing emergency and supplemental groceries has announced that it is now The Interfaith Food Pantry Network (IFPN), due to its network of support operations and partnerships throughout the region.
The network includes sites in Butler, Lincoln Park, Rockaway, Jefferson, Netcong, Mt. Olive, Roxbury, Wharton, Dover, Randolph, Parsippany, Hanover, Morristown and Madison.
“The new name is a more accurate reflection of who we are and what we do. We are not a just a food pantry and resource center,” said Tim Lockwood, President of the IFPN. “We are a network of pantries and partner agencies that comprise a vast safety net for Morris County residents that struggle with food insecurity.”
The network includes 28 partners, which are small food pantries, low income senior housing sites and food access sites operated by the County of Morris.
According to IFPN officials, the strategy to establish a network of food pantries and satellite food distribution sites via their Mobile Pantry Partners began in 2017. The goal of the network is to efficiently address the social detriments of health by providing access to nutritious foods to clients of smaller pantries in more remote communities, and seniors who lack access to the IFPN pantries in Parsippany and Morristown.
“We believe it’s critical to not just employ stop-gap measures to hunger. The long-term effects of food insecurity often lead to health issues such as hypertension, diabetes and obesity. The network addresses this issue by providing more fresh fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy items and grains. Access to healthy foods empower people to take more control over the issues they are dealing with – finding a job, managing financial stressors, providing kids the nutrition they need to do well in school,” said Lockwood.
The Pantry’s network strategy was fueled by data collected during a multi-year study conducted in partnership with Profs. Patrick McGuinn, PhD and Lisa Jordan of Drew University. That study identified geographic pockets of low-income families and seniors that were outside the radius of accessibility to IFPN’s two existing pantries. The Mobile Pantry was launched in 2017, funded largely by Impact 100 Garden State.
“Our network partners have strong ties to their clients and communities. They understand their needs”, said Carolyn Lake, Executive Director. “The COVID crisis forced many new people to seek help everywhere they could find it. Our pantry numbers grew as did the numbers of people visiting our partners. But even as the need grew dramatically, ensuring the continuity of access to healthy food was critical to our mission. We did not want to slide backward, we instead, leapt forward.”
Contributing to the rapid expansion of the network was the exponential increase in the number of seniors who, during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, were suddenly isolated and had no way of securing groceries. With a skeleton staff, the IFPN responded to crisis by working with the Morris County and Dover Housing Authorities to serve 300 seniors in five county locations. Additionally, new food pantries were added to the network in Dover, Hanover and Roxbury.
The program is currently accommodating 6,100 household visits, a 140% increase over 2019’s figures. Through the two pantries they operate, the Mobile Network and other Morris County agencies it serves, the IFPN has distributed more than 1.1 million pounds of food during more than 21,000 household visits this year.
“The Interfaith Food Pantry Network is a critical resource for Morris County” said Kathy DiFillippo, Morris County Freeholder. “For 25 years the Morris County government has worked in partnership with IFPN through the Offices of Temporary Assistance, Division of Aging, and Senior Nutrition Programs. They play a critical role in our social services infrastructure as the leading agency providing nutrition and related resources to Morris County residents.
“Even pre-COVID there was a significant population living paycheck to paycheck and many seniors choosing between food and medicine. Food insecurity is not new, but the pandemic exacerbated the problem. We are grateful to the IFPN and the significant safety net they provide to help Morris County families,” DeFillippo added.