A half-dozen food banks were bolstered with $195,000 in funding released by the state Thursday.
The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs announced the Community Services Block Grant money to six food banks. Pennsauken’s Food Bank of South Jersey, which serves Burlington County, is getting $30,000.
The grant was an unexpected pot of money and will be used to buy food, refrigerate and store it, and transport it to local shelters and organizations that feed people in need.
“Sometimes it’s a surprise. I think this was funding that was underutilized, and DCA (Department of Community Affairs) called us at the last second and said this was available to us and they were looking for worthy nonprofits to expend it,” said Tom Sims, chief development officer at the Food Bank of South Jersey on John Tipton Boulevard.
“In many cases, grant funding like this goes toward food, the cost of moving the food or trucking it, warehousing it — so mostly direct expenses,” Sims said.
The other food banks that will receive funds are:
• Community FoodBank of New Jersey in Hillside, Union County: $80,000;
• Fulfill in Neptune, Monmouth County: $30,000;
• Mercer Street Friends in Trenton: $25,300;
• Northwest New Jersey Community Action Partnership in Phillipsburg, Warren County: $20,000;
• Rural Development Corp. in Vineland: $10,000.
“New Jersey’s food banks, and all the affiliated organizations they support, make food available to hundreds of thousands of needy families and individuals every year, and these grants will go a long way toward aiding in that mission,” said Charles Richman, commissioner of the state Department of Consumer Affairs.
When it comes to funding from sources such as the federal Community Services Block Grant, Sims said that the money is not as heavily relied upon as individual and private donors, but that it is still an important part of the food bank’s mission.
No matter how well the economy is doing, he said the relief of being able to get a free meal is always needed.
“The people that are in our food line, a lot of them are at or below the poverty line,” Sims said.
“But for those who are not officially at or below, they are working sometimes two or three jobs to keep up with a pretty expensive housing cost in this state. What we do is find people who are looking to take the edge off, maybe one week a month, with getting help on groceries.”
The Food Bank of South Jersey links nearly 10 million pounds of food to about 250 charitable food providers annually. It also has its own programs, feeding people directly, such as providing nutritious food boxes to low-income seniors and holding a Summer Meals program that provides food to children who had free or reduced lunches at school but don’t get them when school is out.
“When school is out and they don’t have the funded lunches, we are trying to fill that gap,” Sims said. “It was a busy summer. This was no summer to take it easy.”