The Cherry Hill Food Pantry was bustling on Nov. 15 as volunteers from the GIANT Food Company and staff members from its partner organization, the Philadelphia 76ers, unloaded, shelved and packed food.
GIANT, a Pennsylvania-based company, also brought more than $2,000 worth of food to the pantry.
“This is our first venture into South Jersey for delivery,” said Serena Corrigan, a brand manager for GIANT. “We heard [the Cherry Hill Food Pantry] was a great organization to work with. We did a little research, and this is one of the first zip codes we decided to deliver to, knowing the need for food insecurity in this area.”
Donated food included staples like bread, rice, peanut butter and tuna. The pantry event included Mayor Susan Shin Angulo and councilwoman Sangeeta Doshi.
“There are so many people that are struggling right now, and I think it’s because of this pandemic that we need to support any way we can so people feel safe, secure and also respected with dignity,” Shin Angulo said.
The mayor noted that the number of people experiencing food insecurity in the township rose by 25 percent in the past year, and pantry Executive Director Janet Giordano reported that in 2020, donations provided food for 4,969 families, 6,662 adults, 2,020 seniors and 3,549 children. Donations were up during the pandemic.
“People are cognizant of [food insecurity], so we are receiving more than in the past,” Giordano explained. “We’re able to help more people at this time without straining our regular resources.
The Cherry Hill pantry has been located at 910 Beechwood Ave. for two years, and serves people across the South Jersey area. The large space is divided into sections like a regular grocery store, with aisles for prepackaged foods, produce, meat, dairy and even a bakery.
When people come to the pantry, they receive six bags of shelf-stable groceries and numerous bags of produce, meat, dairy products, eggs and milk. On Wednesdays, recipients get a large box of food rather than bags.
Giordano said that ideally, pantry visitors could come in and shop around for what they need, like they would in a grocery store. She also described the need for more parking lot space.
“People shouldn’t get prepackaged food; they should be able to shop for what they want,” Giordano noted. “During COVID, I didn’t have a choice, but I thought our parking lot would be done, and it’s not even close to being done.
“We need this parking lot desperately,” she added. “We cannot run the way we want to run and the way our plans are [without it].”
The pantry provides food for people three days a week. On Tuesday between 6 and 7:30 p.m. and Thursday between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., the pantry caters to eligible residents not only from Cherry Hill but also Mount Laurel, Marlton and Haddonfield. On Wednesday from 5 to 6:30 p.m., the pantry is open to anyone eligible to receive food in New Jersey.
For more information on donating or volunteering, visit the Cherry Hill Food Pantry Facebook page or https://cherryhillfoodpantry.org/.