Burlington County’s coronavirus pandemic response has extended beyond COVID-19 testing and obtaining and distributing protective equipment and supplies.
Recognizing the impact the outbreak has had on many county families, the County has partnered with the Food Bank of South Jersey and Farmers Against Hunger to distribute thousands of boxes and bags of food to county households.
Because of the continuing need, the County plans to host its 11th food distribution event this Saturday, Sept. 19, from 10 a.m. to noon, in the parking lot of the County Emergency Services Training Center in Westampton. The site is off Woodlane Road next to the Burlington County Institute of Technology’s Westampton campus.
Burlington County residents in need of the assistance are eligible for free boxes of food and produce on a first come first serve basis while supplies last.
“No child or adult should have to go to bed hungry because of the pandemic or recession,” said County Board Director Felicia Hopson. “We’ve seen first-hand the need that exists, and we remain committed to working with our partners to try to provide help to every family who needs it.”
Since the start of the pandemic, the County has expended more than $100,000 on its food assistance program and successfully distributed more than 3,000 boxes and bags of food to county households through its distribution days.
Each box of food contains nonperishable food items, such as pasta, tuna, rice, oats, powdered milk and canned fruits and vegetables. In addition, Farmers Against Hunger has also provided hundreds of bags of fresh Jersey produce, including tomatoes, zucchini, potatoes, carrots, and other fresh vegetables and dairy.
The freeholders’ actions are in response to the food insecurity faced by increasing numbers of county families who have either lost their employment or had their incomes shrink due to a loss of hours or pay cuts. Many no longer have the money to afford adequate food supplies or are now uncertain whether they will have enough money for food.
A recent report from the Feeding America, a network of domestic hunger-relief organizations, including the Food Bank of South Jersey, predicted that the percentage of families considered food insecure would likely rise from 7.5% in 2018 to over 12% of county families this year due to the pandemic.
The issue is even more pronounced among children. Feeding America predicts as many as 19% of the county’s children likely to be living in homes considered food insecure this year.
“Hunger was an issue before the pandemic, but the outbreak has made the problem more pronounced and widespread,” Director Hopson said. “We refuse to ignore the problem or pretend it doesn’t exist. While the food we’re providing residents will not solve the problem altogether, we’ve heard from a number of families who say the extra help can make a world of difference, so we intend on continuing to provide the help.”