It’s become the most shopworn cliché to say that people should not go hungry in a wealthy country like the United States. But they do, and we have hungry neighbors right here in Hoboken.
Thankfully, Hoboken has opened its pantries and purses to feed those in need.
Toni Tomarazzo serves on the board of the former YMCA, now the Hoboken Community Center, which includes the MBS moderate-to-low-income housing program.
Paul Somerville of Paul J. Somerville Design, who also serves on the board, says, “The words ‘Spirit Mind Body’ cast on the stonework on the south side of the building is the international YMCA slogan, a version of which, ‘Mind Body Spirit’ became the genesis of the name MBS Housing.”
The HCC offers housing for 96 low- and moderate-income single men. They occupy part of the building at Washington and 13th Street.
“Guys have lived in the building for 30 years,” Tomarazzo says. “With horrendous gentrification, they wouldn’t know what to do without the service. What’s their option?”
The organization is in the process of renovating the part of the building where the gym and pool used to be.
“When we reopen that part, it will provide recreational and educational activities,” Tomarazzo says. “We’re working very hard to see that the men’s shelter is run appropriately. In conjunction with that extra room, we are in the very near future opening the Hoboken Food Pantry. A small but burgeoning food pantry will help families in need.”
Locals Offer Support
The Hoboken Food Pantry hopes to serve 25 to 35 families and will work through the city and other agencies to find families that don’t have enough food. Though the New Jersey Food Bank assists in providing food, HCC operates with volunteers and contributions from local drives and donations. A generous anonymous donor contributed $10,000.
The Hoboken Shelter, an outstanding service under the direction of Jaclyn Cherubini, is supported by most of the religious institutions in Hoboken.
“But the town still does not have a full-service food pantry,” Tomarazzo says. “There has been a void of food pantries available to families in the northeast and northwestern sides of Hoboken. They’ve been needed for a long time.”
Still, organizers of the pantry want it to grow gradually. “We want to start small and not go over our skis,” Tomarazzo says. “We want to help families who need it, and we are desperate for volunteers.”
Perception and Reality
Tomarazzo, who is an attorney by day, says that the food pantry is part of the mayor’s initiative to address homelessness in the city.
“In a wealthy community like Hoboken, we lose sight of the needs of people who can’t get through the month without help in providing food for their families,” Tomarazzo says. “We tend to associate with people like ourselves and lose sight as a community of the dire need and the real difference two bags of groceries can make to a family who can’t put food on the table.”
She is passionate about the mission. “Think of the absolute impact we can have on these families,” she says. “It’s so rewarding to see this done for them. It’s worth the time and effort.”—Kate Rounds
To volunteer, visit hobokencc.org.
Where to Find Food
Other organizations around town provide food.
In Jesus’s Name
Our Lady of Grace (OLG)
Basement of the OLG parish center behind 411 Clinton St.
In Jesus’s Name offers emergency food in response to any resident of Hoboken, but it’s not a monthly food bank. It operates on an emergency basis with referrals from agencies. A Thanksgiving dinner and toys at Christmas are provided. In Jesus’s Name is supported by donations. “We don’t want people to feel stigmatized,” said Director April Harris. “We want it to be a comforting experience.”
St. Francis Pantry
308 Jefferson St.
As part of St. Francis Church, the St. Francis Pantry feeds those in need from a list of 70 to 80 people gleaned from relevant sources. Monday through Friday, the pantry gives out sandwiches, dessert, and water from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Saint Matthew Trinity Lutheran Church
57 8th St.
The church provides hot meals to the homeless Monday through Thursday.