Today, Congressman Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10) and Essex Counter Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. joined Meeting Emergency Needs with Dignity (MEND) to unveil a countywide online food drive held between June 1 and June 30 to raise fresh produce and other food for families and individuals in need in Essex County.
"School is out, summer break has begun and many people are leaving for vacation. There is not a holiday season in the summer where people stop and think to give to those who are less fortunate," said Rep. Payne, Jr. "There are many in our community who are in dire need, and over the last few years, the number of families who struggle to make ends meet has risen. So we are making it even easier for people to give and support those in need through MEND's online donation shopping service."
The purpose of this June food drive is to stock all food pantry shelves across the County as we enter the summer months when donations to food pantries are historically low and free and reduced-price school meal programs are suspended.
Despite the general improvement in our economy over the last year, many of our MEND pantry patrons have not benefitted from the upturn and instead continue to experience food insecurity. In fact, the number of those in need has increased. Consequently, the need for food to sustain Essex County continues to grow, and with the cuts to unemployment insurance and the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), the reliance on pantries like MEND only have increased.
MEND is a network of 18 interfaith food pantries in Essex County which served more than 90,000 residents in 2013, and has distributed over 2.2 million pounds of food since its formation in 1980. This summer, during a period when donations to food pantries are historically low and free and reduced-price school meal programs are suspended, MEND seeks to raise over a ton of food through the online shopping service AmpYourGood.
"One in four children in this country goes to bed hungry at night. One in five lives in poverty. So the kind of work that MEND does is more important than ever before," Rep. Payne, Jr. said.