Record-breaking 4.6M pounds of food given out by N.J. center last year, but the need isn’t going away

The center provides goods to 80 food pantries, shelters and soup kitchens, and operates under the Rural Development Corp., which supports underserved rural communities in South Jersey. In addition to the center, the RDC operates the Cumberland Family Shelter.

As the pandemic upended lives, the need for help grew.

“There was a lot more food coming in and going out,” said Jill N. Lombardo-Melchiore, executive director of the Rural Development Corp. “Organizations had a larger need for food because they were trying to feed so many people.”

The annual amount of food delivered through their Vineland distribution center increased by 1.6 million pounds between 2019 and 2020. They moved 4.6 million pounds in 2020 and this year’s figures are trending in the same direction. The numbers have not declined to pre-COVID levels so far this year.

“A lot of the pantries that we work with have been feeding people for years and they’ll continue to feed people now that COVID is officially over,” Lombardo-Melchiore said. “They really stepped up to make sure that people in their communities were fed throughout COVID and the majority of them are volunteer-based. The majority of them were people who were leaving their homes in the middle of COVID to make sure that other people were fed.”

That dedication inspired Pantry Appreciation Day, inviting volunteers and the organizations they serve to come to Vineland for an afternoon of entertainment, food and fellowship.

Anika Jackson, who oversees the pantry at In His Image Ministries in Gouldtown, brought her young children to the event because giving back is a family tradition.

They adopt 10 families at the Cumberland Family Shelter each Christmas, providing gifts and making the holiday special for those going through tough times.

The church launched its food pantry about six months ago and helps more than 100 families a month.

While the worst effects of the pandemic may be starting to subside, the need hasn’t, Jackson said. Many remain out of work and some are now struggling to keep their kids fed through the summer.

In addition to a drive-up pantry, they also deliver food to seniors.

“It makes you feel really good to be able to help someone that can’t help themselves at such a time as this,” she said.

Jackson was especially moved by the plight of one older woman who lost her job during the pandemic, while also caring for her ailing husband at home. She didn’t have the means to buy groceries and reached out to the pantry.

Share the Post:

Related News