The coronavirus pandemic and its economic wake of destruction has led to additional food insecurity in New Jersey, and especially in Ocean County where seasonal and service-industry jobs are more common than other locations, officials said Tuesday night as the Brick Township council marked Hunger Action Month.
Former Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who now serves as director of Fulfill, formerly known as the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean counties, told Brick officials that since the pandemic began in March, 215,000 individuals in Monmouth and Ocean have become “food insecure,” meaning they are unsure if they can afford food to eat for the next week or month.
Since March, Fulfill produced enough food for 13.2 million meals with more than half provided to Ocean County, Guadagno told council members.
“It amounts to one in every six people having received emergency food from Fulfill,” she said.
The sobering statistics led Mayor John Ducey and the township council to declare September Hunger Action Month in a formal resolution. Guadagno said Brick has numerous food pantries, and has added that Fulfill, if asked, would provide the township itself with food that can be distributed to residents. Several local communities, including Berkeley Township, have implemented such a program.
“I call upon all citizens to join the fight against hunger and food insecurity … by donating food, supplies or anything else needed,” said Ducey.
Guadagno said the rate of food insecurity in the current economic crisis is akin to “Sandy on steroids,” referring to the need for emergency food during the 2012 superstorm.
“This year is worse than any we can remember,” said Guadagno. “This is like Sandy on steroids. We’ve seen a 446 percent increase in the amount of food requests.”
“We rely on hospitality, and that’s gone, and it will be gone for a while,” she continued. “One in six means there is somebody right outside that door who does not know where his next meal is coming from.”