ROXBURY, NJ – Roxbury police are asking residents to help their less-fortunate neighbors by donating food and other items. As an incentive, and as a way to connect better with Roxbury children, police are offering - to kids who participate – a chance to ride with them in their patrol cars.

The “Roxbury Township Police Food Drive” is a first for the department, said Roxbury Police Chief James Simonetti. Nonperishable food items, and other household supplies needed by Roxbury Social Services, are being collected at the police station on Route 46 in Ledgewood.

The Social Services Food Pantry is critically low on supplies, said the chief, noting his department works closely with Social Services Director Janet Ward. “We’re going to do a strong push for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday with this,” said Simonetti.

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Police officers get to sides of the community often hidden from the general  public, including the hardships being faced by some residents due to unemployment and other unexpected circumstances, said the chief.

“We respond to calls and we see people in definite need of assistance,” said Simonetti. “That’s why we work so well with Social Services. It’s a team approach. We are out at the houses and out at calls and we try to help people. We understand that not everybody is working now and it’s our job to get people to the services the town provides.”

Simonetti said he hopes the food drive will have also benefit the community by exposing children to police in a positive manner. Every child that brings to the police station two items for the Food Pantry will be named a “Fighting Hunger Hero.”

Participating children will have their pictures taken with a Roxbury police officer and those photos will be posted on the department’s Facebook page. Also, each Fighting Hunger Hero will have the chance of being chosen in a raffle to get a tour of the police station and to ride with a patrolling officer for a couple hours, said Simonetti.

“It’s a community policing initiative,” he said. “It helps the police department by getting children to interact with police officers. It breaks down the fear of dealing with police offices … and it’s a good time to show them another part of life: giving to others.”

Among the items needed by the Food Pantry are coffee, tea, juice, macaroni and cheese, kids snacks, canned vegetables, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, canned fish or chicken or other meat, instant noodles, small containers of sugar and flour, cooking oil, diapers, shampoo, hair conditioner, dish soap, laundry detergent, napkins, paper towels, deodorant and razors.