Burlington County holds canned food drive through January

Commissioners will distribute free groceries on Jan. 29.

It’s a new year and Burlington County’s fight against food insecurity and hunger is continuing.

As part of the county’s ongoing efforts to assist local families in need, the Burlington County Commissioners are holding a canned food drive now through Jan. 31. Collection boxes are being established at the County Administration Building, 49 Rancocas Road and other county offices and facilities, including the Burlington County Library, 5 Pioneer Boulevard, Westampton.

Only donations of canned foods are requested. Boxed foods or other perishable items will not be collected.

All collections will be donated to the St. Vincent de Paul Society, to be distributed through their food pantry at Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church, 260 High Street, Mount Holly, and to the Rowan College at Burlington County food pantry.

In addition to the drive, the Commissioners announced that the county’s monthly food distribution event with the Food Bank of South Jersey will be held Jan. 29 at the Burlington County Emergency Services Training Center, 53 Academy Drive, Westampton. From 10 a.m. to noon, families in need will be able to pick up free boxes of groceries and other food items.

During the event, the Food Bank of South Jersey will also help enroll individuals and families who may be eligible for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits.

“Food insecurity and hunger is a hidden crisis with far too many families suffering in silence while lacking adequate and nutritious food,” said Burlington County Commissioner Director Dan O’Connell. “In fact, the Food Bank of South Jersey estimates that more than 52,000 of our county residents are food-insecure, including nearly 18,000 children.”

Nationwide, an estimated 7.6 percent of households with children – 2.9 million families – were considered food insecure in 2020, up from 6.5 percent in 2019, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Our County has not and will not remain idle while there are those living amongst us who are forced to skip meals or go to bed hungry,” O’Connell said. “This food drive is an easy way for all of us to come together and help our neighbors. Contributing a few cans from your family’s pantry can make a world of difference for those who are struggling.”

The drive is also a way for residents to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his call for service.

“Dr. King famously said, ‘everybody can be great because everybody can serve.’ This month on his birthday we pay tribute to him and his teachings with simple acts of service that remind us that we must all step up to make our county, state and nation the ‘beloved community’ that Dr. King frequently spoke about,” said Commissioner Felicia Hopson, the Board’s liaison to the County Department of Human Services. “Eliminating food insecurity in our county is an achievable goal and something we can all help bring about.”

The canned food drive is the latest action undertaken by the Commissioners to provide relief to residents suffering from food insecurity. Since the beginning of 2020, the County has partnered with the Food Bank of South Jersey to hold monthly food distributions where those struggling to feed their families or pay bills receive free, non-perishable groceries. It’s become a key component of the county’s COVID response and has had widespread impact.

More than 12,000 people have received aid from the monthly distributions since they started.

Last year, the Commissioners also entered into an agreement with New Jersey Farmers Against Hunger that allows the nonprofit to use a portion of Laurel Run Park in Delran as its headquarters and to grow crops for food pantries to distribute to families in need.

“This pandemic is the biggest challenge many of us have ever faced before. Whether you’ve lost a loved one to the disease or a job or income because of it, we’ve all been impacted in ways large and small,” O’Connell said. “I’m proud our county has stepped up to provide assistance in a variety of ways, and we promise to continue to work with our partners to make sure aid remains available for all who need it.”