According to the COVID-19’s Impact On Food Insecurity In NJ report from September 2020, the number of New Jerseyans with uncertain access to healthy food was expected to increase by more than 50% by year end because of the pandemic, totaling 1.2 million “food insecure” people or 13.5% of the population. For children, the projected increase was bigger, at 75%, bringing the report’s stated total to 365,000.
The Community Food Bank of New Jersey, the state’s largest food bank, disclosed the New Jersey increase is 10 percentage points higher than the national average, and greater than the rises reported for Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New York.
On March 16, 2020, Lunch Break implemented Operation Gear-Up: We Will Not Miss A Meal pandemic response to feeding community members in need.
Our grab-and-go meal distribution served 88,670 meals, a 22% increase compared to the number of meals served in 2019. The food budget for our soup kitchen was exceeded by 56% and our pantry by 99% in 2020, as we expect increased demand for food to continue through 2021.
The economically insecure individuals we serve are at risk for additional financial hardships caused by the uncertain economic start to 2021.
The Soup Kitchen serves low-income, poverty level, working poor, food insecure, single parents, children, veterans, the elderly and physically disabled, the employed, underemployed, and the unemployed who are residents of every town in Monmouth County.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, many individuals we served came from low-income communities throughout the county. Since March 2020, we have served an unprecedented number of middle-class individuals seeking food assistance for the first time. Many have lost jobs, work reduced hours and taken pay cuts, relying on meals from our Soup Kitchen for sustenance and well-being.
We quantify our numbers by the number of meals served. In 2021, we project serving more than 85,000 meals.