Friday, November 29, 2013

Red Cross, FoodBank offer holiday meals to Sandy victims

Photo by Jack Reynolds
Red Cross volunteers deliver enough turkey
dinners to feed at least 140 local residents.
Local residents still suffering from the fallout of Superstorm Sandy one year later signed up at King of Kings Community Church in Manahawkin on Thursday, Nov. 21, to receive a take-home Thanksgiving dinner provided by the American Red Cross and the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties. The holiday meals are funded through a $5,000 grant from the Red Cross’ $307 million Sandy relief fund acquired through public contributions. The donation is expected to help feed nearly 1,200 people throughout New Jersey in areas still struggling with the aftermath of the storm.
Volunteers from the Red Cross Jersey Coast Chapter, which serves all of Ocean and Monmouth counties, helped deliver enough turkeys and trimmings, including sweet potatoes, yams, green beans, stuffing and cranberries, to feed at least 140 local residents.
“I’ve seen very good things happening. It might be slow, but recovery is coming,” said Toms River resident Terry Studnicky, who has been volunteering with the Red Cross for eight years.
Photo by Jack Reynolds
Many more people use the food pantry
due to additional financial burdens.
Although the state’s storm-affected communities are in different recovery phases, said Tara Maffei, director of community recovery for the Red Cross’ NJ Storm Sandy Long Term Recovery program, many people are still struggling to maintain the basic necessities, especially food.
“There’s an extra demand in food. The need hasn’t subsided,” agreed Carlos Rodriguez, executive director of the FoodBank. “People don’t have the same income they had before,” he explained.
Many individuals were already using the food pantry prior to the storm, and many more have come through the doors due to additional financial burdens, Rodriguez said. Sandy victims are still displaced, which means many are making mortgage and rent payments on top of rebuilding expenses.
Rodriguez attributed the increased need for food to what he called “the perfect storm”: the nation’s economic collapse, Superstorm Sandy, and the recent cuts in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the largest program in the domestic hunger safety net.
The FoodBank provided 7.3 million pounds of food during the 2012 fiscal year and 8.5 million pounds of food during the 2013 fiscal year. The organization plans to distribute 8.25 million pounds of food during the 2014 fiscal year, but distribution is already 20 percent higher than expected. If demand continues at this pace, the FoodBank will provide more than 9 million pounds of food for the year.
“The need is much higher than we anticipated,” said Rodriguez, who expressed concern about future cuts.
The Red Cross is also receiving a high volume of calls from people seeking help due to financial stress. Many Sandy victims are calling for the first time, said Maffei. The Red Cross expects New Jersey residents will need several more years of recovery efforts.
“It’s overwhelming. People are still struggling with their own personal recovery,” said Maffei. “If you told people we’d still need to do this one year later, I don’t think anyone would have believed it. But we’re here for the long haul to help support people in their recovery,” she added.
–Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.