NUTLEY, NJ - This is the first article in the three-part series “Hunger Hits Home.” The objective is to raise the awareness of the need in our own hometowns, where to go for assistance and how to help those less fortunate.

Did you know one in eight Americans are hungry? Over 1.1 million Americans need food assistance. Are you aware someone next door to you may need help and not be receiving it? Did you know there is aid right in your own home towns? How you can support these food pantries and care kitchens to feed your neighbors and friends?

Okay first let’s start with eligibility for assistance.  Did you know a family of four in NJ earning less than $45,000 gross income a year qualifies for food assistance? If you live in Nutley the Nutley Family Service Bureau (NFSB) guidelines are a little easier due to the township’s cost of living, requiring residents with a family of four to earn up to $57,373.68 a year. 

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According to the NFSB only 75 families in the town of Nutley are receiving assistance. “Families may not realize they are eligible for assistance because the NFSB criteria is more inclusive than the state guidelines,” stated Emma Cortese, NFSB public relations chairwoman.

“The agency knows that the cost of living is higher (in Nutley) and we want to reflect our eligibility to be consistent with the community,” added Caitlin Peterson of NFSB.

Did you know that if your child qualifies for free school lunch your family is also suitable for food pantry support?

“People are still unaware, it’s discrete, but we want them to feel they can walk in the door and get help,” said Eileen Painter, NFSB executive director.

The Human Needs Food Pantry, 9 Label St., Montclair is currently servicing 14 towns in Essex County. According Director Mike Bruno the pantry adds about 20 new households a month. “The need is growing, the economy is getting better but it’s not trickling down. It’s a hidden problem, people are embarrassed,” he said.

“They are doing what they need to do for their family. They should hold their heads up high and be proud. It’s a tough problem, anybody can find themselves in this position,” he added.

For more information on qualifying for help and the SNAP program visit www.fns.usda.gov. For more information on Nutley Family Service Bureau visit Nutleyfamily.org or call 973-667-1884. For the Human Need Food Pantry visit www.humanneedsfoodpantry.org or call 973-746-4669.

The next two articles focus on where to go for assistance and volunteering efforts. They will be published Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. 

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