RED BANK — Gwendolyn Love, executive director for Lunch Break soup kitchen and food pantry, was guarded but hopeful when she was informed this week that some additional state funding would be making its way to six state food pantries.
Love is hopeful that some of the funds earmarked for the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties may translate into more help for the soup kitchen and food pantry on Drs. James Parker Boulevard. But she is guarded because, in the past year there have been cuts in state and federal funding that have taxed the resources of the food pantry as demand escalated.
“Hopefully, it’ll trickle down to Lunch Break, as well,” she said on Wednesday.
Guadagno appeared at the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, Hillside, along with state Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary O’Dowd and Agriculture Secretary Douglas H. Fisher to make the announcement. According to information released by the Governor’s Office, the Christie Administration has committed a little more than $6.8 million for Fiscal Year 2012, administered quarterly, for the Department of Agriculture’s State Food Purchase Program, intended for food banks to purchase fresh fruit and vegetables to be distributed to more than 700 food pantries throughout the state.
The FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties will receive $141,667.
Lunch Break is one of the pantries for which the food bank provides some food stocks. But funding cutbacks in recent years have made it a challenge to meet the needs of the community, Love said. “It has impacted Lunch Break tremendously because our numbers have been going up,” for those seeking assistance from both its food pantry and soup kitchen.
How much has demand gone up? Love said when she started at Lunch Break three years ago the pantry was serving somewhere between 55-60 families a month. Last month, she said about 522 families applied for food assistance. “The demand has been great,” she said, noting it goes even higher in November and December, as the pantry provides additional food for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.
Along with the pantry, the soup kitchen has seen a steady rise in those coming for a meal. “And not only that, a lot of new faces,” she said.
Two years ago Lunch Break began serving a Saturday breakfast. And now, “Saturday is more busy than during the week,” she said. “It’s just packed, and that’s every week.”
When government funding slips, Lunch Break has to rely on private donations to make up the shortfall. When the pantry receives provisions from the food bank, basically “you get what you get”; and if there is a specific need, such as for eggs and chicken, as is the case now, Lunch Break has to go out and purchase those items from one of its regular suppliers, which at times can be the food bank. “And that’s where the community comes in,” she said. “If it wasn’t for their donations, the money wouldn’t be there to place an order and we wouldn’t be able to do it.”
Lunch Break hasn’t heard yet from the food bank about the additional funding. But whether it means additional support for them or not, Love said, “We’re just trying to do th