Help Needed to Make Lawrence Food Drive a Success
Lawrenceville Patch is teaming up with HomeFront and ShopRite to hold a community food drive on March 10-11 at Mercer Mall in Lawrence Township to benefit the HomeFront food pantry.
Every given month, the fine folks at HomeFront and the Lawrence Community Center pass out more than 1,000 bags of food to help feed families in Lawrence Township and neighboring towns who are struggling to get by in these tough times.
The majority of the food that is handed out is donated by generous members of the community.
The problem is, right now, not enough donations are coming in, so the bags are going out only half full.
In an effort to stock the pantry shelves and guarantee that more families get the help they so desperately need, Lawrenceville Patch, HomeFront and ShopRite are teaming up to hold a two-day community food drive.
The drive will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, March 10, and Sunday, March 11, at the ShopRite supermarket at Mercer Mall in the 3300 block of Brunswick Pike (Route 1) in Lawrence Township.
We need your help, dear readers, to make the drive a success. Please consider stopping by during those hours to donate whatever you can.
As pointed out by Christine Lee, director of the Lawrence Community Center, a wide variety of items are greatly needed.
“During the holiday season, from Thanksgiving through Christmas and Hanukkah, folks are very generous and very philanthropic, and we get beautiful donations of food and clothing and gifts and all sorts of wonderful things for our clients. And then what happens is, traditionally, at this time of year – January, February, March – our food pantry becomes bare. It literally is bare,” Lee said during an interview this week.
“We’re giving out sometimes over 1,000 food baskets a month and now they’re unable to be full and nutritional. The food that we get from USDA government grants are big bags of potatoes, rice and wonderful things to help sustain the food bags, but we rely on our donors in the area to provide our clients with the rest of the bag to make it supplemental – cereals, peanut butter, jellies, soups, canned proteins like tuna and beef, and things of that nature. And right now we’re severely low,” she said.
HomeFront, which manages the Lawrence Community Center on Eggerts Crossing Road, was been passing out food bags to the needy for 20 years. Currently, bags are distributed from the community center on the first and third Thursdays of every month, and from the HomeFront office on Princeton Avenue in Lawrence each week on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.
“It used to be every day, but we don’t have enough food being donated to do it every day,” Lee said.
Each family is allowed to obtain one food bag every 30 days. While the majority of the families who receive bags come from Lawrence, Trenton, Ewing and Hamilton, some come from farther away in Mercer County, and others come from even farther.
“We will never turn anyone down that walks in and needs a food bag,” she said. “If someone traveled all the way down from New Brunswick who wants a food bag, I’m giving them a food bag.”
With the economic downturn of the last few years, the number of people asking for help has gone up.
“The increase I’ve seen is more in the middle income range,” Lee said. “I’ve seen more people come in that are completely humiliated…not that anyone who walks in isn’t already humiliated to have to ask for a food bag. But for folks who have never had to do this before it’s very tough.
"They are not people that are sitting around doing nothing with their life," she said. "This is the working poor. It’s New Jersey. It’s extremely expensive to live here, to find affordable rent, to find a job that pays you well. So there is an increase in that population.
“There’s also been an increase in certain cultural populations coming for food bags that, traditionally, would take care of their own families,” she said. “It’s just gotten too difficult for everyone to support each other.”
Lee has no illusions that the 40 or so items in a food bag – if that bag is full – are going to last long.
“Is that bag going to get them through the month? Of course not! For some families, it might get them through the day. If you’ve got a family of five, you know, one food bag’s not going to go very far. But the point is to just take the edge off, to take the stress off, and to get them through a day. For some folks, like seniors, it will last them a week,” she said.
Among the items most needed are cereals, canned fruits and vegetables, soups, canned proteins (tuna, chicken, beef, beans), shelf milk, peanut butter, jellies, instant mashed potatoes, rice, pastas, cereal bars and Nutri-Grain bars.
“We just want to remind the community that this time of year is really tough. Whatever they can get to our food bags would be really helpful to our clients,” Lee said.
Anyone wishing to make a monetary donation can do so via the HomeFront website. Information about how to volunteer with HomeFront can be obtained by sending a email to volunteer coordinator Lynn Bovier.