PISCATAWAY, NJ — Volunteers with the James O. Bryant Food Pantry joined forces with the Piscataway PBA Local 93 on Saturday, handing out donations of cereal, vegetables, beans, and personal items to those in need, and signing up residents for the COVID-19 vaccination registry.

“I felt that it would be beneficial to the community to see our department in a positive light as they continue to help our community members,” said executive director, Wilhelmina Bryant.

“Unfortunately, the only interactions that some people have had with the police has been at the most stressful and difficult times in their personal lives, often never getting an opportunity to say "thank you", said Bryant. “I want people to see them for the public servants they are, and know that their service goes beyond the enforcement of the law.”

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“They called us, so I brought it to our PBA president at a meeting,” said Detective Calvin Laughlin of the Piscataway Police. “We checked with them to see what kinds of products they needed for the pantry and picked up all the items on Thursday.”  

The PBA donated $500 worth of breakfast items for Saturday’s distribution and set up a tent to help pass them out. Rows of Honey Nut Cheerios lined a table in one room of the pantry, waiting for volunteers to pack them into bags of groceries that were given to families as they drove up to the pantry’s Ethel Road driveway.

“The cereal is a big thing because that’s what we run out of,” said Bryant.

“We’ve been here more than 25 years,” she continued. “We’re always changing to meet whatever demands are necessary. We have food, we have diapers, things for people who are incontinent. We have masks, all kinds of things to try to meet the needs. We just want people to come and get it.”

Located at 6 Ethel Road at the corner of Justice Street, the James O. Bryant Food Pantry is operated by the North Stelton A.M.E. Church in Piscataway. The pantry provides dietary assistance “to individuals as well as families who are at or below the poverty limits and find it difficult to provide food for themselves or their families.”

To keep the pantry stocked, donations are always welcome.

“This was food donated last week from the Raritan Valley Links,” said Bryant, showing an area of the pantry that included stocks of peanut butter, cooking oil, sugar, pasta and other items the group collected.

“We have donations from Snack Innovations,” she continued. “When you don’t have anything, and can have a snack, that’s awesome.”

The pantry also received a grant from the Piscataway Teachers Association which Bryant said she used to purchase “the staples people can use to build meals.” She reserves them to give out to families on the third Saturday each month when they’re busiest.

“We have a young PBA and they’re enthusiastic about staying involved in the community,” said Laughlin. He said a lot of people don’t realize how much work they do in the community. “I said to them this is the time we need to be doing community outreach.”

The pantry and church also teamed with the New Jersey Black Women Physicians Association whose representatives were available to discuss information about the COVID-19 vaccine and register attendees for an upcoming RWJ Barnabas vaccination clinic.

“We thank God for these physicians coming to us, sharing this information so that we might get the vaccination out to all people, so we can once again reach some type of normalcy in our community,” said North Stelton A.M.E.’s pastor, Rev. Dr. Eric R. Billips, Sr. “We understand that too often, only certain populations are vaccinated, and usually marginalized persons are left out of the situation.”

“We’ll be out here next week,” reminded Bryant about the food pantry. “We’ve been outside since last March, in all kinds of weather. We saw a limited population initially, but now we see people of all races. I’m happy that they come. We offer vegetarian food as well. We’re determined to stay out here as long as we need to.”

The James O. Bryant Food Pantry is open the 1st, 3rd, and 4th Saturday each month from 9:00-11:30 a.m. For more information or for assistance call (732) 630-0836 or email mina08854@yahoo.com.

North Stelton A.M.E. Church is located 123 Craig Ave. To reach the church call (732) 287-5184.

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