By Emily Young

PATERSON, N.J. – Up to 3,500 turkeys and more than 1,000 holiday food boxes are being distributed at Father English’s Community Center in Paterson to local nonprofits throughout Passaic County.

“New Jersey is projected to see a 56 percent increase of food insecurity,” Carlea Milton-Sturdivan of the Community Food Bank Of New Jersey said. “When talking to our neighbors in need, our partner agencies are telling us more and more families are coming to the pantries; families they have never seen before. The working poor–the recently unemployed. So, yes our agencies have seen a significant increase in the clientele they have been servicing.”

The boxes, filled with all the holiday trimmings. And the distribution, down to a science. Representatives of local pantries, food kitchens, and churches pull up in their car, and volunteers stuff it with food. The nonprofits then give it out to their communities.

“Since the pandemic, we’ve seen hundreds of families. Actually, our numbers have skyrocketed,” explained Kimberly Arias of St. Pauls Community Development Corp. “On average, prior to the pandemic, we were seeing about 400 families a month. Now, we’re seeing 800 close to 900 families a month.”

For many of these families, a holiday meal is a choice.

“Too often, our neighbors in need are met with the difficult decision of whether or not they have to pay the rent, or medication or get food,” Milton-Sturdivan said.” We want to make sure that no family has to deal with that or make that difficult decision.”

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