By Lauren Wanko
Mom, Christina Corretjer, and daughter, Samantha, are shopping at The Peoples Pantry in Toms River. The nonprofit offers emergency food to those in need.
“This is a great example for your kids,” Corretjer said. “It really is. It is a great example of people helping people.”
Although her husband works full time, the mother of two was laid of about a year and a half ago.
“The income just isn’t the same. I’m able to make rent, but other bills start to mount up after a little while. A place like this to come it helps fill the gaps,” Corretjer said.
“These are blue collar, middle-class people. Its not what you would think. These are people that don’t qualify for social services at all,” said Pat Donaghue.
Donaghue founded Peoples Pantry about two weeks after Sandy struck and they’ve been open ever since.
“This has been a long-standing problem. That’s what people don’t understand. Sandy was a blessing and curse. It destroyed a lot, but it gave people who needed help an excuse to come out,” Donaghue said.
New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition‘s Adele LaTourette says hunger affects residents in every part of the state.
“I think what people have to understand about domestic hunger, and hunger in New Jersey specifically, is that it’s really not related to the poverty level. It has to do with the cost of living in New Jersey, and the priorities that people have paying bills and the fact you get hit with a big medical bill, or car repair bill, that can push you into being hungry because can’t afford to buy food,” LaTourette said.
250 to 350 families visit the Peoples Pantry every week. So far, the nonprofit has distributed 5.8 million pounds of food. Donaghue says as many as 15 new families walk through these doors daily.
When asked why she thinks that is, Donaghue said, “I think people have just run out of money.”
Clients typically shop once a month. The pantry relies on donations and volunteers. Staffer Chris Rutherford started as one of those volunteers.
“I came in one day, came in the next day and I just never left,” said Rutherford.
The Peoples Pantry also serves a tremendous amount of veterans and seniors. The New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition wants lawmakers to focus on increasing access to federal feeding programs to address the overwhelming need for food.
“And that includes SNAP, also known as food stamps, child feeding nutrition programs, school breakfast, summer food,” said LaTourette.
At the end of her shopping trip Christina’s cart is full of groceries. It’s enough food for about two weeks.
“Everyone is going through a little struggle right now and it helps to have some help, right?” said Corretjer.
Chasing the Dream: Poverty and Opportunity in America is a multi-platform public media initiative that provides a deeper understanding of the impact of poverty on American society. Major funding for this initiative is provided by The JPB Foundation. Additional funding is provided by Ford Foundation.