FIRST 90 DAYS: Food Bank of South Jersey Distributes Over 5 Million Pounds of Food; Feeds 90,000 South Jersey Residents During COVID-19 Response

5 million pounds of food. 90,000 people fed. Tens of thousands of families welcomed to drive-up food distributions. For the Food Bank of South Jersey, the first 90 days of COVID-19 response became a mission to nourish, sustain and uplift South Jersey.

PENNSAUKEN, NEW JERSEY – In the first 90 days of its response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the Food Bank of South Jersey – South Jersey’s largest hunger-relief organization – increased its capacity to serve a surging food-insecure population of South Jersey by distributing more than five million pounds of food, more than 22,000 emergency food boxes and feeding approximately 90,000 people during a three-month operational expansion dedicated to feeding food-insecure residents impacted by COVID-19.

During the COVID-19 crisis, the Food Bank of South Jersey remained in operation continuously, expanding and strengthening its capacity to distribute record high volumes of food throughout Burlington, Camden, Gloucester and Salem counties. With a focus on low-to-no contact food distributions, including emergency food box drive-up food distributions at approximately 60 regional locations, the Food Bank skillfully shifted operations to meet and exceed the demands of a 200 percent increase in food insecurity throughout its four-county region of service.

COVID-19 Emergency Response

The Food Bank of South Jersey’s COVID-19 response started the second week of March with the launch of the Coronavirus Preparedness Plan developed by its internal disaster response task force.

This group of employees, including Food Bank of South Jersey President and CEO Fred C. Wasiak and the organization’s top leadership team, set in motion a plan for business continuity, supporting employee wellness, and most importantly, maintaining the safe and secure flow of food to the approximately 140,000 people reportedly food insecure in the region.

As the Coronavirus rapidly accelerated, as did the terms social distancing, shelter-in-place and COVID-19, the increase for food demand in the South Jersey surged due to aggressive, record-breaking unemployment, business and school closures, and an increasingly stressed senior population facing the threat of food disruption.

Feeding South Jersey in the Days of COVID-19

The task to stand strong for South Jersey as COVID-19 disrupted life in South Jersey, and throughout the world, posed distinct challenges for the Food Bank – challenges which included operational and logistical restructuring to expand the organization’s power to fulfill a devastatingly sharp increase in food insecurity hitting South Jersey households. In response, the Food Bank leveraged its 35 years of hunger-relief service, support and expertise to stand strong for South Jersey during the wave of food insecurity delivered swiftly by COVID-19’s advancement throughout the Delaware Valley region.

  • The Food Bank of South Jersey distributed a record 1.6 million pounds of food in March alone, a mark that was quickly erased by 1.8 million pounds in April and 1.9 million in May.
  • Highlights of the Food Bank’s first 90 days of COVID-19 response include providing over 20,000 prepared meals to five HUD housing communities across multiple counties, serving 146,910 breakfasts and lunches to regional school children impacts by the loss of school feeding opportunities, distributing 22,806 emergency food boxes through 78 mobile food distributions, on-boarding new food pantries grow its partnering pantries strength to over 200 and provide emergency food supplies and meal preparations to over 22,200 senior citizens and nearly 28,000 children.
  • Currently, 40 percent of participants attending the Food Bank’s food distributions continue to be first-time food bank recipients – driven to the Food Bank by the crushing economic consequence of COVID-19. In South Jersey, as swelling unemployment claims continue to create surging food insecurity, the Food Bank of South Jersey continues to meet the increased food demand which is expected to last for months to come.

“Since the start of the our COVID-19 emergency food distribution response, scenes of residents waiting in line for food throughout Burlington, Camden, Gloucester and Salem counties have presented a relevant, sobering and deeply troubling view of the escalating issue of hunger impacting South Jersey,” reports the Food Bank of South Jersey’s Wasiak. “Through it all, the Food Bank of South Jersey has remained fully operational and ready to serve – we are standing strong for South Jersey at this time.”

Currently, the Food Bank of South Jersey’s COVID-19 response continues. 

ABOUT FOOD BANK OF SOUTH JERSEY

Marking its 35th year in 2020, the Food Bank of South Jersey (FBSJ) is the leader in providing safe and nutritional food to people in need throughout South Jersey. FBSJ distributes food, provides nutrition education and cooking courses, and helps food-insecure families and seniors find sustainable ways to improve their lives.

Throughout 2019, FBSJ distributed over 15 million pounds of food, more than 230,000 summer meals and over 17,500 senior food boxes, as well as serving 95 health and wellness programs to more than 11,700 residents. Providing community impact through local support, FBSJ ensures that local donations stay local. FBSJ is a member of Feeding America, our nation’s largest hunger-relief organization.

With COVID-19 greatly impacting South Jersey starting in early 2020, bringing school closures, stay-at-home orders, record-breaking unemployment and rising poverty, FBSJ within the first 90 days of response to the COVID-19 crisis distributed more than five million pounds of food throughout its four-county region of impact, including the distribution of more than 20,000 emergency food boxes to food-insecure populations. To learn more, visit www.foodbanksj.org.