Secaucus residents in need of emergency food assistance will have better access to healthier meal options now that the town’s new food pantry is open for business.
More than two dozen Secaucus families used the old food pantry every month, according to town officials who expect the new facility to serve even more people.
Elected officials, community groups, and local business leaders turned up on April 11 to inaugurate the new home of the Secaucus Food Pantry, a 3,000 square foot facility at 210 Meadowlands Parkway donated to the town by real estate developer and property management company Hartz Mountain Industries.
This facility replaces the pantry’s former home, a small space located at the top of a narrow staircase in the Secaucus Senior Center.
Hartz donated the 210 Meadowlands Parkway space to Secaucus in February, and has agreed to allow the town to use it – free of charge – for the next five years. Hartz will also pick up the tab for utilities at the facility.
The Kiwanis Club of Secaucus gave 20 hams.
The space, which had previously been used for retail, was renovated before last week’s grand opening.
“We have people who want to give us food donations all the time. But we had a very limited food pantry space, and a lot of the time we have to turn away donations that people want to make,” the mayor said last week. “Now, we can accept those donations because we have a larger space to store them…This now gives us the opportunity to reach out to a bigger audience.”
Contrary to popular belief, there are families in Secaucus who have been hit hard by the recession and who occasionally find themselves in need of emergency food, according to Lisa Snedeker, director of Senior and Community Services.
“We see maybe 25 to 30 families a month,” said Snedeker. On the day the pantry opened, she added, “we had five different families come there…And a lot of people who need to take advantage of [the pantry] don’t. A lot of people in town are too proud. But I tell people who are on unemployment, come get food from us and use your unemployment checks for rent. That way, your money will go farther.”
A number of community groups and businesses were on hand at the pantry’s debut to help the social service agency stock its shelves.
The Kiwanis Club of Secaucus, for example, gave 20 hams, while UNICO made a $250 donation. Wrap 4 a Smile bagged and donated 130 personal hygiene kits. Representatives from Walmart and United Parcel Service, the latter of which has a large plant in Secaucus, made food donations, as did the local chapter of People to People International, a nonprofit group.
The United Way of Hudson County has given $1,500 worth of ShopRite giftcards. The cards allowed the town to stock its freezers with meat and other items not donated.
H&H Bagel bagged and donated 12 dozen fresh bagels, which have been frozen and will be thawed and given to families as needed. The popular bagel store has pledged to make periodic donations of fresh bread products to replenish the initial donation.
Now that the new pantry is open for business, Goya Foods will also deliver a 10,000-pound donation of canned food products, part of the company’s nationwide Goya Gives Campaign. Through the campaign the company, which is headquartered in Secaucus, is donating one million pounds of food through the United Way.
Hartz applauded the local business community for lending a hand to the effort.
“At Hartz, we believe that it is the duty of every corporation to give back to its local community,” said Hartz President and Chief Operating Officer Emanuel Stern last week. “In these challenging economic times, we hope that our gift will inspire other companies to join us in serving local Secaucus residents.”
The Secaucus Department of Senior and Community Services will also use the 210 Meadowlands location for other social services needs.
Gonnelli said the United Way of Hudson County set up a “showroom” of furniture items at the pantry. These items, he said, can be donated to families who have been displaced due to a fire or other emergency.
The family, he said, “can pick out furniture and then the United Way will deliver it from their warehouse facility.”
In addition to the food pantry, the town also plans to use a portion of the space to warehouse some of its municipal files and other records.
The building at 210 Meadowlands Parkway is also home to an urgent care medical facility and A Real New York Bargain, an apparel outlet.
To make a donation to the Secaucus Food Pantry, call Lisa Snedeker or Patt Jakubowski in the Department of Senior and Community Services at (201) 330-2014.
E-mail E. Assata Wright at email@example.com.