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Newark Food Pantry Struggles to Keep Up with Demand

When Peggy Traynham’s daughter died of breast cancer four years ago, she assumed the responsibility of raising her five children. Two of them, a 13-year-old girl and a disabled 23-year-old disabled young man, still live with her today.

The trend of grandparents raising grandchildren is a growing one. Of the nation's families, 2.4 million are now maintained by grandparents who have one or more of their grandchildren living with them, according to the latest Census data.

But trying to make ends meet has not been easy for many of these grandparents. Traynham, 61, a retired security officer with no income of her own, lives in a low-income, Newark townhouse development owned and operated by the non-profit New Community Corporation. She relies heavily on the organization’s food pantry to help feed herself and her two grandchildren, whose government checks help pay the rent.

 “It’s been helpful lots of times,” said Traynham, who picks up items like frozen whole chicken, canned goods and bread from New Community’s Emergency Food Pantry, during the monthly visits.

Since the pantry opened in March of 2012, the number of families and individuals in need of food has steadily increased. This year alone, the pantry has served more than 7,000 clients, including seniors, single parents, low income working individuals and the homeless. 

“Interestingly, the demographic that has really increased is the ‘working poor,’ those people who don’t make enough to always make ends meet,” explained Malcolm Hayman, Assistant Director of Social Services for New Community Corp. He said the need for food assistance is rising because of the economy and cuts in the federal food stamp program, which take effect November 1st. With the approaching holidays, pantry officials are expecting even more people to turn to them for food assistance and they are worried there will simply not be enough food.

The New Community pantry is open after the 15th of every month and typically distributes 90 percent of its stock by the third day after opening.The pantry receives a pre-determined allotment of food monthly from the Community Food Bank of New Jersey and occasionally also receives food from Catholic Charities.Still, it is difficult to keep up with the demand.

“We are forced to refer clients to other pantries after our supply runs out,” Hayman, the New Community official, explained. “Unfortunately, our supply falls far short of the demand.”

If you can help the New Community Emergency Food Pantry by making a food donation, please call 973-623-6114. The pantry will even pick up major donations of food.

“Nowadays, we all need help,” said Traynham, the Newark grandmother raising her two grandchildren. “Today it may be me, but tomorrow it could be you.”

Author: Angela Stewart, Director of Communications at New Community Corp.