Tri-State Food Banks Need Staff in Order to Feed Those in Need During Pandemic

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Food banks around the tri-state say they are struggling to keep up with the increasing demand for meals from people out of work as a result of the coronavirus shutdown.

But it's not always food that the facilities need most.

At the Fulfill Foodbank that serves Ocean and Monmouth counties in New Jersey, food products go out the door almost as soon as they come in, with more than 10,000 extra meals each day. The small number of workers at the facility — which is still accepting individual drop-offs of donations, along with truckloads — creating food boxes overnight, with 15,000 already sent out.

They're far from only place in the area to see significant increases in people seeking help and food: A food pantry in Bradley Beach has seen a 40 percent climb in needy families since the shutdown began. The Greater Monmouth YMCA has quickly pivoted to food distribution as well, along with blood drives as membership is on hold.

It is that distribution — getting the food products out to those who need them — that has proved to be the biggest challenge. Some who volunteer regularly have stopped coming, or have been told to avoid it.

Food banks in New Jersey are seeing unprecedented levels of need. Brian Thompson reports.

"Some really want to come but their kids won't let [them], or [are] living with someone who is health compromised," said Linda Carter, of the Bradley Food Pantry. "Hotels stay closed, bars, Jenkinson's [Aquarium]. All of these places stay closed, unemployment is going to go higher and the need is going to double."

A lack of volunteers abruptly closed St. Brigid's food kitchen and pantry in Long Branch, with a lone box of donated food left at the door, going to waste. Another spot in Red Bank called Lunch Break, with Jon Stewart among its many supporters, was closed for Monday after one person reported a fever and a deep clean was ordered. They are now working with a skeleton crew of volunteers, they said.

Other places had already stepped up their cleaning regimens. The warehouse at the Fulfill Food Bank already doing more after one employee died as a result of the virus.

Despite the worker and employee shortage and the increased cleanliness requirements, the center is not deterring in its mission to feed those in need. It's now launching a number people who have never used a food bank before can text for help, showing them the three closest pantries to their zip code.

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