WhyHunger.org defines food insecurity as being forced to skip meals, eat fewer meals or buy cheap non-nutritious food. The same website says 15 million U.S. households suffer from food insecurity, just shy of 12 percent of all American households.
Mother’s Cupboard, Washington Township’s proprietary food pantry that is run in partnership with the local Rotary chapter, has set out to remedy the problem on a hyperlocal level. Drew Jackson, the director of Mother’s Cupboard, says they service approximately 500 families per month.
When Mother’s Cupboard was formed 10 years ago, Jackson likened the start-up to a small walk-in closet. After a decade of helping Gloucester County’s largest municipality, Jackson said the food storage is closer to the size of a WaWa and includes five freezers, a three-door commercial-sized refrigerator and a separate side-by-side refrigerator freezer for overflow.
Jackson said the pantry is usually well-stocked with items ranging from non-perishables to frozen meats, poultry and fish to fresh fruits and vegetables. While they are generally well-stocked, he added donations are always accepted. If someone wants to donate to Mother’s Cupboard there is a donation bin by the front door of the municipal building located on Egg Harbor Road.
“We do need it to be fully stocked. The amount of people we take in every month, we want to supply them,” Jackson said. “It would be a shame if we were low on product one week and stocked the next. The people who come in the second week wouldn’t be the same as the third week. We want to make sure everybody can get the same amount of food.”
What Jackson is referring to is the lone rule for using Mother’s Cupboard: a resident can only come once a month. The only requirement to use the pantry is to be a Washington Township resident. No documentation required, no questions asked.
Jackson credits the pantry’s success to a few different avenues. For one, Mother’s Cupboard is partnered with the Food Bank of South Jersey and Philabundance, in addition to the local Rotary. Second, they receive donations from local businesses and supermarkets. Jackson credits five local farmers markets that donate fresh fruits and vegetables, which is a step up from canned fruits and vegetables in his eyes.
“Nothing like having fresh fruit and vegetables to hand out to those people,” he said.
Jackson said he spoke with a few shoppers, asking how much they save in groceries per month considering the monthly trip to the food pantry. He said some residents estimate $250 to $300 in savings.
Mother’s Cupboard is open to Washington Township residents only on Thursday mornings from 9 a.m. to noon in the council room at the back of the municipal building. Because some residents might be working during that time, on the fourth Thursday of the month the pantry is open from 5 to 7 p.m. at the same location.
The pantry relies heavily on volunteers, Jackson said that interested residents can visit during the above hours of operation to inquire about opportunities. To continue to keep hunger at bay in Washington Township, food donations are always accepted at the municipal building.
“We tend to have plenty for everybody, which is a really good thing for these people,” Jackson said.