WEST ORANGE, NJ — West Orange Public Library will be one of 22 Essex County libraries to participate in the Meeting Essential Needs with Dignity (MEND) Summer Hunger Busters Community Food Drive to help feed the 44,471 children in Essex County who often go hungry once school ends.

Many families depend on the school lunch-and-breakfast project to help fulfill their children’s nutritional needs. On limited food budgets, during the summer months, families are left struggling to find a way to provide three meals a day for hungry children.

MEND an interfaith anti-hunger network serving those in need since 1980, is partnering with 22 public libraries in Essex County to collect healthy non-perishable food during July and August to support MEND’s 16 pantries across the county.

Sign Up for E-News

Residents of Essex County are encouraged to look for the MEND labeled receptacles from now until Sept. 1.

A guideline for making an unexpired non-perishable food donation a healthful one includes looking for items labeled: No Sugar Added, 100 percent Juice, No Salt Added, Low Sodium, 100 percent Whole Grain, and Canned in Water. For shelf-stable-milk, look for Low Fat (1 percent) or Fat Free (skim).

The Essex County public libraries participating in the community food drive are located in Belleville, Bloomfield, Cedar Grove, East Orange, Fairfield, Glen Ridge, Irvington, Livingston, Maplewood, Millburn, Newark, Orange, South Orange and West Orange.

According to the New Jersey County Health Rankings for 2016, Essex County ranked fifth-worst overall in the state for the percentage of children living in poverty in the county (23 percent). In towns where MEND food pantries are located, however, the percentage of people living in poverty can be higher.

For example, according to the U.S. Census, in Newark, where eight MEND food pantries are located, 29 percent of the population lives in poverty.

MEND, a 501©3-recognized charitable organization, served more than 109,000 Essex County residents in 2016. To learn more about MEND, visit
http://mendnj.org. Contact MEND: info@mendnj.org; 976-266-7941.