NEW JERSEY -- Hunger is on the rise locally and across New Jersey as a result of the coronavirus pandemic's impact on businesses and workers. Usage at the local food pantries at St. Bart's and Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) in Scotch Plains is on the increase. IHM has seen the number of people who live in the community increase, while St. Bart's helps with requests from churches in Plainfield and Newark and the veterans in Long Valley.

Related: Community Responds as Scotch Plains Food Pantries See Surge in Need

Union County will hold an emergency drive-up food distribution to County residents to aid those affected by COVID-19 on Saturday, Sept. 12, beginning at 9:00 a.m. at Kean University (1000 Morris Ave., Union). The distribution will take place in the parking lot located at the intersection of North Ave. and Morris Ave.

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Food distribution will be first-come, first-served and no registration is required. It is sponsored and coordinated by the County of Union and the Community FoodBank of New Jersey. Residents who wish to pick up food must arrive in a car; walk-ups will not be accommodated.

Feeding America estimates a 56% increase in food insecurity throughout New Jersey as a result of COVID-19 -- an additional 432,000 residents. This rate is higher than the national average of 46% and greater than any of New Jersey's neighboring states. In Union County, specifically, the projected food insecurity rate has risen from 8.2% to 12.9%.

“Despite the progress being made, food insecurity remains a major concern among many families,” said Freeholder Chair Al Mirabella. “The Freeholder Board and the County continue to work hard in assisting our residents and these drive-up food distributions have been a lifeline to many affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Upon arrival, each driver will have to present identification with their name and address and indicate how many people reside in their household. Recipients will receive an emergency box of non-perishable items and fresh produce, with enough to sustain a family for several days. Please note that only one box of food will be provided per vehicle. This event will take place, rain or shine.

"The increase in need for food assistance among our New Jersey neighbors during this crisis has been staggering, presenting a greater challenge than anything that the FoodBank has faced throughout its 45-year history," said Carlos Rodriguez, CEO of the Community FoodBank of New Jersey. "Partnerships like the one that we have with Union County are what allow the FoodBank to continue its unprecedented response, reaching more individuals and families in need than ever before."

In Fanwood, the generosity exhibited by classic car owners earlier this summer will be replicated on Sunday, Sept. 13, when Fabio's Bistro plans another car show/food raiser at the Fanwood train station from 11:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.

"People are hurting, and that's probably a surprise to hear in a community such as ours," said Fanwood Mayor Colleen Mahr. "There are families and working single parents who are really struggling right now. I want to thank Greg Kowalczyk and Ronnie Vojka of Fabio's Bistro for stepping up to the plate again to help others -- many of whom live right here among us."

Statewide Efforts
Many New Jerseyans who receive food assistance through the state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (NJ SNAP) will receive additional benefits in September to help address critical food needs related to the COVID-19 pandemic.  An additional estimated $40.3 million will be provided to about 236,000 New Jersey households for September.

SNAP supplemental payments were included in the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Human Services has already provided about $219 million in additional NJ SNAP benefits total in March, April, May, June, July, and August to New Jerseyans to help purchase groceries.

“I am fully supportive of any initiative to combat food insecurity and help more New Jerseyans feed their families,” Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Middlesex) said. “Sadly, too many families in New Jersey have to choose between paying their bills and eating a nutritious meal and this problem has only been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.