NUTLEY, NJ - Food pantries is the second 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.

So now that you may qualify for help where do you go? The first place to go to is to apply for New Jersey’s supplemental nutritional assistance program at www.state.nj.us and enter SNAP in the search engine.

If you are a Nutley resident you can visit the Nutley Family Service Bureau Annex, (NFSB) 169 Chestnut St., they recently acquired the food pantry when the Red Cross departed. There is a form on their website familyservice.org to fill out. The staff at NFSB assures that clients will remain confidential.

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Food is distributed on an every other week basis and according to the size of the family. Along with non-perishables the pantry will give out refrigerated items as well, such as poultry, beef and pork. This year the pantry was able to provide turkeys at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Gluten free items are also available.

Also in town St. Mary’s Church, 17 Monsignor Owens Place, has a food pantry mainly serving Nutley and Belleville residents. They are currently assisting about 50 people a month. The supply emergency food bags and well as some baby products.

Vincent United Methodist Church, 100 Vincent Place, has a care pantry as well as a care kitchen. The pantry helps with household needs that the SNAP program won’t cover such as toilet paper, shampoos, tooth paste, detergent and cleaning products as well as feminine items. They also sometimes have baby items such diapers and wipes. This service is provided once the family receives approval for help from the NFSB.

“There are currently two families receiving baby products,” said Barbara Carrino, director of the care kitchen/care pantry.

Care Pantry distribution is on the first Monday of the month from 4 to 6 p.m. with the exception of holidays. Each month it alternates between household items and toiletries.

How to help

Donations are always accepted. Right after the holidays and the summer months especially the pantries are hit the hardest according to Mike Bruno, director of Human Needs Food Pantry in Montclair. “It’s a leaner time in the summer, a lot of donors go away [for vacation],” he said.

NFSB also agrees summer is one of the tougher times for the pantry. They put a request out to local businesses, churches and organizations for assistance when the inventory starts to drain and are able to continue their service to the residents in need.

“November and December are the busiest months. We [Human Needs] gave out 968 turkeys and 135 roasting chickens to seniors and smaller households. No one left without a Thanksgiving package,” Bruno said.

The staples are requested such as peanut butter and jelly, cans of tuna, chicken and vegetables, dried pasta and cans or jars of tomato sauce. Just about any shelf stable product can be donated. Money and gift cards are also always welcome. Popular items donated though seem to be pasta, sauces and macaroni and cheese.

“It’s so easy to be unhealthy, it’s faster, less expensive, more convenient, but the real downside is the lack of well-being,” said Eileen Painter, NFSB executive director.

The pantry will take any donation given but they would like to focus more on healthy eating. “Items which are protein based such as canned tuna and chicken, beans and nutritious cereals,” she explained.

Can’t afford to donate, just about anyone can volunteer their time, stocking shelves, checking product labels for food allergies and expiration dates, filling bags and organizing the pantries.

Volunteer Paul Ferrara has been helping with the NFSB Food Pantry since 2007 when the Red Cross had the reins. “It’s my way of giving back without giving money,” he said.

Connie Schuren also has been donating her time for about 10 years. “Right now I volunteer one afternoon a week, about four hours. It’s a good feeling,” she said.

The NFSB recently received about $1,500 in gift cards to pass along to those in need in Nutley. Most were for grocery stores.

For the winter holidays NFSB received donations from 140 people. “That does not count the anonymous donors dropping off to the outside box,” said Painter.

“People may think we get enough food for the holidays but it does not last,” she said.

The Nutley food pantry also receives donations of fresh produce from the Giving Garden and Grow-A-Row, the township’s community garden. Also this year the Nutley Farmers Market collected donations every Sunday throughout its season opening.

NFSB has a drop box outside there building for collections when the building is closed. They also have one for the Thrift Shop across the street which is under an awning and drop boxes can be found at various businesses, churches and organizations around town.

For more information on Nutley Family Service Bureau visit Nutleyfamily.org or call 973-667-1884. For more information on Vincent United Methodist Church’s care pantry call 973-667-5440 or visit vincentumc.org and click on ‘Care Ministries.’ For St. Mary’s Church call 973-235-1100. For the Human Needs Food Pantry visit www.humanneedsfoodpantry.org or call 973-746-4669.

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