State of the Food Bank: Food Bank of South Jersey COVID-19 Response During 2020

During 2020, the Food Bank of South Jersey Distributed Over 22.5 Million Pounds of Food to a Surging Food-Insecure Population

PENNSAUKEN, NEW JERSEY – The crisis of food insecurity in South Jersey changed dramatically during 2020, elevating at alarming rates almost overnight – creating a year of hunger for South Jersey, and the nation. In response to surging food insecurity impacting South Jersey due to COVID-19 during 2020, the Food Bank of South Jersey distributed more than 22.5 million pounds of food – the equivalent of over 18.7 million meals – to a food-insecure population Feeding America estimates rose from 115,690 to 176,690 people, introducing an estimated 61,000 people to food insecurity in South Jersey between March 2020 and December 2020.

Of these 61,000 additional people experiencing the threat of hunger in Burlington, Camden, Gloucester and Salem counties, more than 26,650 are children, according to Feeding America estimates. Nearly one million children’s meals were distributed during 2020 by the Food Bank of South Jersey – up more than 700,000 meals over 2019.

By comparison, the Food Bank of South Jersey distributed 15 million pounds of food in 2019, the equivalent of 13 million meals.

According to Feeding America estimate, currently every one in seven people living in South Jersey is food insecure.

“During 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic altered so much of our everyday lives – how we interact, how we travel, how we learn, how we work. For many members of our community, the impact has been severe. Unemployment. Homelessness. Financial crisis. Health emergencies. An alarming rise in food insecurity – with tens of thousands facing life-altering hunger for the first time,” reports Fred C. Wasiak, President and CEO, Food Bank of South Jersey.

Food Bank of South Jersey food distributions through 2020 welcomed more than 40 percent of food participants new to receiving food from a charitable organization. As the organization increased its capacity to serve swelling numbers by expanding its partner network to over 210 local food distribution partner agencies, it restructured its in-person Health & Wellness programming to bring nutrition

awareness and healthy eating education to South Jersey – virtually. During 2020, 409 nutrition education programs were completed and 872 educational sessions delivered.

Food Insecurity Rise

Food insecurity population increases, by county, according to Feeding America estimates, escalated throughout Burlington, Camden, Gloucester and Salem counties in the following ways:

  • Burlington County:
    57.4 percent increase, rising 33,330 to 52,450.
  • Camden County:
    48 percent rise, elevating 52,430 to 77,600.
  • Gloucester County:
    60.8 percent elevation, surging 22,750 to 36,580.
  • Salem Country:
    40 percent, rising from 7,180 to 10,060.

“The crisis of food insecurity in South Jersey changed dramatically during 2020, creating a year of hunger in our region and our nation,” reports Wasiak. “As 2021 takes shape, with an organizational vision to continue growing neighborhood reach and infusing South Jersey with sustainable health and wellness support, resources and strategies, the Food Bank of South Jersey commits to fighting amplified hunger and, in time, rebuild food security for many.”

Throughout 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, the Food Bank responded to a 200 percent increase in food insecurity throughout our four-county region.

“Our ability to feed our food-insecure neighbors during the COVID-19 pandemic would have been impossible without the immense help and support of compassionate donors, partners, supporters, volunteers and friends,” Wasiak states. “As our work continues to feed the lines of people waiting for food this year, we remain committed to feed the line, sustain the line and shorten the line in our mission to bring forward a New Jersey that is food secure for all.”

Throughout 2020, volunteers donated nearly 12,000 hours of service to supporting Food Bank of South Jersey in its mission to fight hunger in the Garden State. “Together, we faced the greatest food-insecurity and unemployment crisis to hit our nation in a century,” Wasiak states. “Thanks to our remarkable volunteers, donors, partners, supporters and friends we were able to increase our capacity, strengthen our reach and feed South Jersey during what was a brutal year for many. Thanks so our many supporters, we remained resilient for South Jersey.”

For more information on the Food Bank of South Jersey, visit www.foodbanksj.org.

ABOUT THE FOOD BANK OF SOUTH JERSEY

Marking its 36th year in 2021, 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. 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.

During 2020, with COVID-19 bringing school closures, stay-at-home orders, record-breaking unemployment and rising poverty, FBSJ distributed more than 22.5 million pounds of food – the equivalent of over 18.7 million meals – throughout four-county region of impact, increasing its partner agency network to over 210 and serving over 95,000 food-insecure South Jersey residents each month, including the distribution of nearly one million nutritious breakfasts and lunches food-insecure South Jersey children. To learn more, visit www.foodbanksj.org. On Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn, follow the Food Bank of South Jersey @foodbankSJ.