Somerset County Residents Can Help 'Curb Hunger'

Economic woes & storm recovery continue to hike demand at local food banks

County officials, state legislators and food bank supporters this week launched the 19th annual Curbing Hunger food drive to help boost food supplies at the Food Bank Network of Somerset County, the Franklin Township Food Bank and other local food pantries serving Somerset County residents.

The 19th annual Curbing Hunger food drive will be held in June to benefit organizations that help the hungry in Somerset County.  This year there is an easy online donation option as well.  Visit www.yougivegoods.com/curbinghunger2013 to select and purchase food to donate; YouGiveGoods will deliver the food items directly to the local food bank.

“Many families are still struggling due to the extended recession and Hurricane Sandy,” said Freeholder Director Peter S. Palmer.  “The demand at our food banks continues to exceed supplies on a regular basis.  You can help by filling your orange bags – or any plastic grocery bag – with canned goods and placing them at the curb on your recycling pickup days in June, or by donating online.”

Food supplies are traditionally low during the summer months, when school lunch programs close and there are no holiday food drives.  That’s why the Curbing Hunger food drive is held in June to help alleviate this annual shortage.  Donations are distributed to the Food Bank Network of Somerset County and to local food pantries, including the Franklin Township Food Bank.

Orange plastic bags were distributed to county households in May – look for them tied to the handle of your recycling container. You can use any plastic grocery bag if you didn’t receive an orange one. Place canned food donations in the bags and leave them at the curb on your regularly scheduled recycling collection days from June 3 through 28.

High on the list of needed items are Parmalat milk, canned meat and fish, “meals-in-a-can” such as pasta, stews and meaty soups, canned tomato sauce, canned fruits, and peanut butter and jelly in plastic jars. Perishables and food in glass containers cannot be accepted.

“The number of people needing food assistance remains at record levels,” said Curbing Hunger Inc. President Chuck Knill. “For the 19th year, county recycling crews will be distributing our orange Curbing Hunger bags so that people in Somerset County can put food in them and place them at the curb for pickup. In addition we are now partnering with YouGiveGoods to use technology to give people another way to help the cause.

“Also through YouGiveGoods, groups and organizations now can set up their own online drives to support the overall campaign,” he said.  “We’ve set up a Curbing Hunger Inc. webpage on the YouGiveGoods website where all of the organizations supporting us with their own drives can be displayed. This online option is terrific and we expect to significantly increase the donations we receive this year.”

Food Bank Network Executive Director Marie Scannell said her organization is now serving more than 800 families a month, which includes more than 3,000 individuals.  “We’re really looking forward to the Curbing Hunger Month food drive to be a success,” she said.  “We rely so heavily on these donations to keep our shelves stocked.” 

The Curbing Hunger campaign is a joint effort of the Somerset County Board of Freeholders, the county Recycling Center, county and municipal public works departments, the Food Bank Network of Somerset County and Curbing Hunger Inc.

Financial supporters of the program are the Courier News and MyCentralJersey.com.  St. Mark’s Episcopal Church of Basking Ridge is a founding sponsor. The Somerset Patriots also support the program through scoreboard announcements and by hosting Curbing Hunger Night at TD Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater, slated for June 12 this year.

Curbing Hunger started as a pilot program in Somerset County in 1995 and was expanded to several other counties in New Jersey.  Since then, more than 2 million pounds of food have been collected statewide, valued at $3 million.  More than half a million pounds have been collected in Somerset County alone. 

If you miss either of your recycling days in June, curbside donations now are being collected year-round as well.  Use one of the orange bags or any plastic grocery bag to place canned food at the curb on any of your recycling collection days throughout the year.

Donations of non-perishable food also are accepted at the First Saturday of the Month recycling drop-offs held at the Somerset County Recycling Center at 40 Polhemus Lane in Bridgewater.