Families in need during the novel coronavirus outbreak are receiving support from the Hopewell Valley community through a recently launched mobile food pantry program.
The program has been in operation since March and aids valley families and seniors with food insecurities. Hopewell Township, Hopewell Borough and Pennington are the municipalities that make up the valley.
The program arose from a partnership between township officials in the valley, the Hopewell Regional School District administration and Board of Education, local businesses and organizations.
“This is one of those experiences where you just realize what a great community you live in and how great people are,” said Joe Lawver, mayor of Pennington. “About three weeks ago we put out a call for help when we established the program and have raised more than $10,000 in funds through GoFundMe, direct gifts to the Hopewell YMCA and through Pennington Quality Market.”
Pennington Quality Market in Pennington is a local business that has also helped the fundraising effort by establishing a campaign for the pantry. The market has been asking patrons for a few dollars during their checkout of store items to aid in providing funds for program grocery supplies.
“The mayors of each town were on board from the start. Joe Lawver has done a remarkable job putting the putting it all together,” said Thomas Smith, superintendent of schools. “Deb Linthorst, the president of the Board of Education, has also done a great job organizing a lot of the online programming. Margaret Fowler and her sons have been really helpful providing assistance with shopping and delivery of groceries for seniors in our community.”
Lawver added that the program even has more volunteers than can actually be used.
“Tom Smith put the call out initially to the three mayors in the valley. We enthusiastically came onboard,” he said. “Then the YMCA stepped in to help and we partnered with Pennington Quality Market. The need is there and growing. There are more and more people finding themselves in need of support as things come to a halt.”
In getting the program established Lawver, also credits the guidance from the food pantry Arm in Arm and the food bank Mercer Street Friends.
The program only collects shelf-stable (non-refrigerated) food and drinks.
For the week of April 4, the program delivered 72 pantry groceries bags to families.
“We expect that number to keep growing as time goes by,” Lawver said.
The program’s home base is the school district office in Pennington. The food is collected at the administration building and from there the school bus system is used to deliver groceries directly to the families in need.
“What we regularly run out of is proteins and breakfast supplies. There is always a need for fruits, vegetables, beans, pasta and rice. Those are the categories we usually pack the bags with,” Lawver said.
For more information on donating or volunteering, visit www.hvrsd.org.