Articles about us from the Community Food Bank of New Jersey's website (February 2016):

http://www.cfbnj.org/human-needs-food-pantry-helps-families/

And in 2014:

http://www.cfbnj.org/stories-from-human-needs-food-pantry/

From the Montclair Times, 3/23/14:

It's a tough thing to have to choose between feeding yourself and your pet.

As many low-income households in Montclair continue to face a tough economy, certain items are getting cut out of their budgets: clothing, toiletries, cleaning products, pet supplies. But that doesn't mean these items are any less necessary to their pursuit of happiness.

Responding to this need, some local food pantries have branched out and now stock items that many people wouldn't consider to be traditionally found on their shelves.

"We've expanded beyond the food thing a while back," said Michael Bruno, executive director of the Human Needs Food Pantry. "Now we're trying to offer more of the things that we know are draining people's resources."

Take cooking oil, for example. Or paper towels. Or cleaning supplies. These are just a few of the items that food pantries are starting to offer their clients, said Bruno.

"This is stuff that's a big expense in your shopping cart, which these people have to do without very, very often," emphasized Bruno.

Bruno said that pet food is one of the big items that people are requesting at the Human Needs Food Pantry. In response, the pantry has begun to stock as much dog and cat food, dry and canned, as it can.

"People need to feed their pets ... they're family members," Bruno said. "I've spoken to people that have gone without for a week just so that they can afford to buy dog or cat food."

Bruno told The Times about one of the pantry's clients, a woman who owns two cats that are like her "family members." This woman, who Bruno said has few relatives or close friends, stops into the food pantry almost weekly to get the food she needs to keep her cats alive.

"She doesn't want to get rid of them because she loves them, but she wants her cats to be cared for, so she relies on us," Bruno said, a sad tone entering his voice.

Another non-food item in high demand at local food pantries is clothing.

Bruno told The Times that the Human Needs Food Pantry is always looking for linens, towels and almost any article of clean clothing that people might need. In fact, said Bruno, the pantry's entire second floor is dedicated solely to its clothing program, which has grown so large that it takes 55 volunteers to handle the amount of donations that they process. 

Available items include seasonal clothes, kids' clothes, shoes and boots, socks and business clothes that can be worn on job interviews.

Bruno said that the pantry also offers baby items such as formula and diapers, which can wreak havoc on a low-income budget.

Food pantries have also begun to offer their clients toiletries, items that Michele Kroeze of The Salvation Army Montclair Citadel said are always in high demand.

"Soap, razors, toothpaste, toothbrushes ... these are all things that we go through very quickly," said Kroeze.

She said that because many of the Citadel's clients are individuals with no storage space, there's a high demand for individually packaged items such as hotel and trial-sized shampoos.

Toiletries are often some of the most-needed - but also most awkward to request - products sought by clients, according to Bruno, who emphasized that clients should never feel embarrassed about asking for anything that might help them make ends meet.

"Feminine products are always a big need," Bruno noted. "Another thing that people ask me for quite frequently is toilet paper.

"Picture having to ask for a bar of soap or toilet paper. There's no more basic need than things like that."

Did you know that many food pantries will now accept:

• Pet food

• Toiletries: soap, razors, shampoo, toothpaste, feminine hygiene products

• Cleaning products

• Cooking oil

• Batteries

• Baby formula, diapers (especially for older children)

• Clothes and linens

Contact Eric Kiefer at kiefer@northjersey.com

- See more at: http://www.northjersey.com/community-news/local-food-pantries-go-beyond-necessities-the-non-food-pantry-1.750008?page=all#sthash.XpqVWl2F.dpuf

 

TV 34 Montclair Addresses the Issue of Hunger in our community and other Essex County towns.

Recently, Montclair TV 34 televised an interesting discussion with host Ray Aumack, Lee Ann Rivera of St. Cassius Church and our Director Mike Bruno. The topic: hunger in our area, what we are doing about it and what YOU can do to assist our neighbors in need. Click here: http://vp.telvue.com/player?id=T01411&video=187993 to watch this informative program and see how you can help us in our mission.

And from the Record newspaper: 

In Montclair, food pantry lines are growing

FRIDAY NOVEMBER 15, 2013 by Kelly Ebbels & Andy Segedin

"Food stamps never get me through the month. I come here."

Lisa Walker, a Bloomfield resident, has been visiting the Human Needs Food Pantry at 9 Label St. for about a year. Walker, who used to be homeless, said she lost $11 a month in the recent expiration of federal stimulus money for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). She used to receive $200 a month, but as of Nov. 1, she was receiving $189, she said.

Even though Walker now has a home, it remains hard for her to stabilize and manage her money. "I'd be lost without the food pantry," she said. She added that it didn't make sense, though, why the food pantry still provides the bulk of the help. In her mind, that should be the federal program's job.

"I don't understand why the food pantries exist when we have food stamps. Why not just an increase in the food stamps?" Walker asked.

Montclair resident Herbert Poole, who has been using the Human Needs Food Pantry for three years, said his SNAP check has gone down by $70, to $210 a month.

"At the end of the month, it's hard making it," said Poole, who has cataracts and depression, and cannot work.

Mike Bruno, executive director of the Human Needs Food Pantry, gave a tour of the premises on Thursday, Nov. 9. A new refrigerator would be coming in soon to hold more food, but many of the pantry's shelves were sparse that afternoon. New shipments were coming, but they would go out to people soon.

"We're having trouble keeping food in here," Bruno said. "Our numbers are just climbing, and that's creating all sorts of issues for us in terms of what we spend, how we store, what we have to order."

That day was the first anyone at the food pantry remembered being "literally just about out of food" while preparing bags for distribution, Bruno said.

In October of 2012, the food pantry served a total of 2,679 people. In March of 2013, that number was at 3,019 people. In October of 2013, the pantry served 3,977 people - an increase of 48 percent over 12 months. Since March of 2013, when Bruno took over as executive director, the food pantry has averaged 32 new families each month being served.

Bruno, who joined after finishing his career in the Tenafly Police Department as Police Chief, said that many of the pantry's clients are employed, but their hours had been cut from full time to part time.

"We're seeing a lot of hard-working people that aren't able to make ends meet," Bruno said.

SNAP SLIPS

With federal stimulus investments now expired, U.S. Rep. Donald Payne (D-10) told The Times that SNAP dollars are bound to be cut. The question is by how much.

The House of Representatives, according to Payne, is calling for SNAP cuts of $40 billion. The Senate, on the other hand, is proposing a significantly smaller cut of under $5 billion. Payne said that he is pulling for his colleagues in the Senate as he understands the steep challenge he and fellow Democrats face in the House, adding that many representatives have a "lack of concern for our brother man."

Citing U.S. Department of Agriculture figures, Payne said that the SNAP cuts many are currently facing equate to about $36 a month for a family of four. In everyday terms, Payne said that that money could go toward the purchase of three or four whole chickens, each capable of sustaining a family for a couple of days.

Payne took issue with the perception that food stamp reductions are an urban problem, adding that cuts impact millions of Americans, many of them children, seniors and veterans, across the country and into rural and suburban communities. In an effort to better appreciate how Americans dependent on food stamps live, Payne said that he and his colleagues recently participated in the "SNAP Challenge," in which individuals live on the equivalent of food stamps for up to a week.

Payne, who has diabetes, said that he was only able to participate for a day without negatively impacting his health. The congressman acknowledged that many SNAP recipients may also have diabetes or other health concerns and that they, unlike him, do not have the option of returning to a healthy, nutritious diet plan.

"I'm very concerned that we as a nation are more and more turning our back on the less fortunate," Payne said. "This assistance makes all the difference in the world as to whether people eat anything nutritious at all in the course of a month."

Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11) stated in an email: "I strongly support the food stamp program (SNAP) as an important part of a safety net for Americans who find themselves in genuine need. Everyone's interests are best served - recipient's and taxpayer's alike - if we ensure that the program is protected for children, mothers with children, seniors and those with disabilities."

OUR DAILY BREAD

Locally, emergency food program directors were concerned about how federal cuts may play out for the populations they serve.

"I don't see the logic in the federal government cutting the people that need assistance the most," Bruno said. "To me, there's many, many other places where money could be cut to streamline a budget than to take a few dollars out of the pockets of people who are relying on us to keep them from being out on the street. I have a hard time swallowing that, to be honest with you."

Soup kitchen directors who serve homeless populations said they were bracing for the effects.

"I think it's going to be a rough winter," said Anne Mernin, director of Toni's Kitchen, the food ministry of St. Luke's Episcopal Church, 73 South Fullerton Ave. "People are very concerned about cuts to food stamps.

"This population has been going through a really rough time over the past five years. For them to be the ones that are getting cut is kind of amazing."

Toni's Kitchen and The Salvation Army Montclair Citadel, 13 Trinity Place, split up the holidays, with The Salvation Army serving Thanksgiving dinner and Toni's Kitchen Christmas dinner.

Major Larry Ashcraft of The Salvation Army Montclair Citadel noted that the effects of the SNAP cuts will "become more apparent a month or two down the line.

For now, he said, "I think people are just trying to adjust."

Last year, Montclair Citadel served and distributed 1,110 Thanksgiving dinners through onsite service and delivery. Between the continuing struggling economy and the SNAP cuts, Ashcraft is anticipating as many, if not more, dinners will be served next Thursday.

Bruno is hoping the Human Needs Food Pantry can gather donations of between 650 and 700 Thanksgiving dinners. Because of limited freezer space, the pantry is asking that people drop off turkeys on Sat., Nov. 23, between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., or between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and noon on Nov. 24, Nov. 25, and Nov. 26.

On Tuesday, Nov. 9, the pantry was distributing bags of seasonal produce: sweet potatoes, onions, beans, carrots, apples, pears, and peppers. Loaves of bread were available, but the supply was looking scarce barely halfway through distribution hours.

"The community has been phenomenally generous in every aspect," Bruno said. Still, he underscored, when it comes to turkeys - and donations of all sizes and dollar amounts - "We need, we need, we need."

http://www.northjersey.com/community/141922903_A_Montclair_institution_celebrates_30_years_of_helping_others.html?page=all

Click on the link above for an article from the Montclair Times about the food pantry's 30th anniversary in 2012.