As the coronavirus pandemic continues in the United States, food pantries across the country are facing increased demand from people hit hardest by the outbreak’s economic toll.
Skeet’s Pantry in Cranbury has been one of the food pantries able to maintain a consistent stock of grocery items for families in need each month during the pandemic.
The pantry is part of the First Presbyterian Church of Cranbury and has been in operation since the 1980s.
“We have not had an increase in demand, but what we have been glad about is that people have been able to access the pantry. What we started to do in March was make the grocery pickup drive-through,” said Carol Kientz, co-coordinator of the pantry.
Before the pandemic, every third Friday of each month pantry volunteers would distribute food to families in Fellowship Hall inside of the church that is located at 22 S. Main St. Since the outbreak the church changed to a drive-through setting.
“We have a nice big u-shaped driveway that goes around the back of the church, where people can drive in and line up their cars. One by one coming up to Main Street, we have volunteers take two bags to each car,” Kientz said. “Folks are getting at least two bags full of essential groceries.”
The pantry helps more than 50 families a month.
“What we did in April is get fresh produce and vegetables through Farmers Against Hunger, which source we have routinely used. A couple of our volunteers were able to work out a deal with Farmers Against Hunger to get five pound pre-bagged potatoes and carrots,” Kientz said. “We were able to give our families in April bags of regular groceries with produce and vegetables.”
The church has also helped families in special need of groceries in between the monthly day of the distribution of food.
The grocery bags include family size cereal, pasta and pasta sauce, peanut butter, jelly, tuna fish, beans, canned vegetables and canned fruit.
“It is not enough for a whole month we know that. We try to give families a good head start,” Kientz said. “We also ask people to double check item dates before they donate.”
She added that peanut butter and jelly, pasta and pasta sauce, soups, canned beans, canned tuna fish and family size cereal are the top donated items the pantry needs.
According to the church, distribution of groceries is always on the third Friday of each month except for the holiday months of November and December.
The pantry receives food from a variety of sources. The sources include families donating and congregation members donating. Skeet’s also receives fresh produce from Farmers Against Hunger food cooperative.
“We try to make ourselves accessible as much as possible, where the need has existed. Our pastor Hannah Lovaglio has been so dedicated in help us with reaching out to church member to have a core of shopper,” Kientz said. “We used to be able to get large quantities of food from large chains such as Aldi’s but since the pandemic stores have limited that ability, which made it hard. We want all of bags to have the essential food for each family.”
The pantry helps not only people in Cranbury but also residents from Robbinsville, Hamilton, Plainsboro, East Windsor, Hightstown, Trenton, Monroe Township and even from Edison.
“We are able to keep doing this because of volunteers and in particular volunteer shoppers. So when people do go out to get groceries for their own families and pick up two, three or 12 extra items it has allowed us to minimize the risk for people,” said Hannah Lovaglio, associate pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Cranbury.
A red plastic bin sits in front of the church as a place for Cranbury residents to donate needed items for the church’s monthly distribution. The church stocks the shelves with the donated items each day they bring the bin inside of the church.
“Skeet’s has always been supported monetarily by the community and when we needed to fill our shelves by ourselves we have been able to do that,” Lovaglio said.
Kientz added that the pantry’s role is even more vital now during the pandemic.
For more information about Skeet’s Pantry or to donate, contact First Presbyterian Church of Cranbury at 609-395-0897.