LITTLE FALLS, NJ - During the current pandemic, the St. Agnes Food Pantry has stepped up its efforts to help those in need. For many years, it has served local families by providing supplemental groceries to people who cannot afford enough food to sustain themselves and their families. It is solely run on donations.
Recently, it has converted into a drive through in order to protect volunteers and those in need.
Bob Dombrowski and Pat Keating, coordinators of the pantry, have taken measures to ensure many families have food items delivered to their vehicles or their residences. The pantry is now open every Saturday until further notice. According to Dombrowski, the idea is to get food and other essential items to local residents and those in neighboring towns, so they don't have to physically come out of their homes during the quarantine.
"Approximately 70 to 90 families show up each week and bags are delivered to the backseats and trunks of vehicles," Dombrowski explained. "But many still need to have food items delivered to their residences because they are home bound. We've been delivering to many residents the past few weeks."
The pantry continues to partner with organizations like the Community FoodBank of New Jersey and Table to Table, community-based food rescue programs. They've also received assistance over the years from Passaic County.
"The Passaic County Freeholders have recently helped us out with a grant, "Dombrowski said. "I usually appear before them every January and they've been very supportive for the last three years."
Dombrowksi and Keating make their usual food runs to Shop Rite of Little Falls in order purchase items for the pantry from the donations received, but more hours have been added so the pantry is now open every Saturday from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. for residents of Little Falls, Woodland Park and Totowa, It's also open to neighboring town residents from 8:30 until 10:30 a.m.
He said he recently coordinated with the three mayors of the Passaic Valley region to find out those residents who need home deliveries, He added that the goal is to accommodate everybody during the coronavirus crisis, but many people are reluctant to reach out, especially home bound seniors.
"Thankfully, many of those who do need the help are now receiving it. We are delivering bags of groceries each week to approximately 35-40 homes," he further added. "We purchase food from every donated dollar that comes in. This is our rainy day and we are spending it to help families who need help. But we do need more donations."
The pantry has also received assistance from the First Reformed Church, located at 61 Main Street, and has been one of the local providers of food to those who are in need in the Township. However, due to the recent coronavirus crisis, the food pantry has decided to put a hold on volunteering at their pantry, Heaven's Harvest Food Pantry, according to Pastor Emily Ratering-Youngberg.
"First Reformed Church’s situation is that we felt we needed to 'press pause' on our food pantry ministry, mostly because it isn’t right for the regular volunteers to leave their homes right now," said Ratering-Youngberg, referring to the current social distancing mandate.
She also added that another reason for the hiatus was that they were not receiving the usual amount of food contributions from the church's congregation and our community partners needed to be fully stocked.
"Instead of the remaining food sitting in the pantry area, going unused and perhaps passing their expiration dates, the leadership of the pantry decided to contribute the remaining food to St. Agnes’ food ministry," she explained.
Last week, approximately 50 bags of non-perishables were brought to the St. Agnes Food Pantry, located at 65 Union Avenue. Ratering-Youngberg added that it’s possible that both pantries will share some volunteers as well, if needed.
"When New Jersey can glimpse post-COVID life again, we’ll immediately begin restocking and restarting our ministry, Heaven’s Harvest Food Pantry. But for now, all donations and people in need that come to us will be referred to St. Agnes," she added. "We’re proud of the excellent work that St. Agnes is doing, and happy to be able to share in it."
He (Dombrowski) said there are many volunteers wanting to help out at the pantry, as there were before the crisis outbreak, such as students from Passaic Valley High School.
"Many want to help and get out of their house, but for now we can't have people gathering," he added. "We appreciate it but we have to continue practicing social distancing."
Dombrowski said he and Keating planned to continue doing whatever they could to help those in need during this time.
"It's a lot of work but it's keeping me busy," he noted.
He also said that a local animal activist recently donated to the pantry with 60 cases of dog and cat food.
"Michele Stella wanted to know if we needed pet food, and we typically do take dog and cat food," he added. "It's amazing how tough times tend to bring out the very best in people."
LittleFallsBiz also recently donated food items to the pantry. The pantry is asking for donations and to be informed of anyone who is in need. Contact Bob Dombrowski at 201-247-5009.