During the Coronavirus Pandemic, we at Foodshed Alliance are working remotely. You can reach us by cell or email during business hours. We are continuing our work to strengthen our food system and help build its resilience in light of the current disruptions. It is clear to us that our work–supporting local farms that produce our food– is more important than ever in light of the challenges we are all facing.

‘Food pantries are stressed and people need food’

Throughout much of the year, the Foodshed Alliance’s LocalShare program organizes volunteers to harvest surplus vegetables and fruit at local farms and delivers this donated food to food pantries to feed those in need. At this time of the year, farmers are gearing up for the new growing season, and our LocalShare staff normally spends this time planning, networking and gearing up for gleaning season. But not this year.

Because of our close ties with more than 100 food pantries and social service agencies throughout north Jersey, we see first-hand the challenges they and their clients are currently facing as a result of the social distancing precautions in place due to the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, our LocalShare staff and volunteers are doing whatever they can to support our support agency partners.

“LocalShare services most of the smaller food pantries run by volunteers out of places like church basements and community centers,” explained Kendrya Close, executive director, Foodshed Alliance. “These are run largely by very dedicated older volunteers who keep them running efficiently so people in their communities have enough to eat.”

As you know, people over age 60 are most at risk for coronavirus and many are following the stay-at-home order from Governor Murphy. While food pantries are on the list of “essential services” allowed to remain open, many don’t have the volunteers necessary to open. “As a result, we at LocalShare are getting calls saying pantries are stressed and people need food,” Christine Parauda, LocalShare coordinator said.

Working hand in hand with the Sussex County Hunger Coalition partners such as Valerie Macchio of the Sparta Ecumenical Food Pantry as well as Zufall Health Centers, LocalShare is doing whatever it can to fill in the gaps. “We have gotten calls from senior centers, school social workers, and the like saying their pantries are closed and they need X number bags of food,” Parauda explained. “We are prioritizing and working hard to meet those calls for help.”

Fortunately, LocalShare recently began using donated space from a Sussex County friend where LocalShare can collect, sort and organize food for distribution. “This space has been an amazing blessing. We even have refrigeration which will be hugely helpful in the gleaning season,” Parauda said.

To fill the many calls for help to fill the gap left by stressed food pantries, LocalShare and the Sussex County Hunger Coalition are helping to distribute surplus food donated by local grocery stores as well as unused food from our closed schools. As grocery stores struggle to keep their shelves stocked in the coronavirus crisis, surplus food donations are dwindling—but requests are not.

As a result, LocalShare is using its staff, volunteers, vehicles and trailer to help food pantries by picking up food and redistributing it to agencies on behalf of their clients.

What you can do

  1. Donate financially. To support this emerging need to feed those affected by stressed food pantries, please make a donation to the Foodshed Alliance at this link. Your donation is 100% deductible and it will be used exclusively by food pantries to purchase food from NORWESCAP’s Food Bank and to buy in bulk from suppliers. LocalShare will expedite the purchase, sorting and distribution of the food.
  2. We need new, unused canvas bags. Following social distancing protocols, we are minimizing the number of people we come in contact with and who handles the food we are distributing. Therefore, we are create bags of food that can be picked up in bulk by local agencies. If you–or a business you are associated with–have new unused canvas bags, please consider donating them to LocalShare. You can drop them off outside the Foodshed Alliance office at 326 High Street, first floor, Hope, NJ 07844.

LocalShare can be contacted by emailing christine@foodshedalliance.org.