Feedings Hands not letting flood interrupt pledge to serve the Somerset County community

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The Feeding Hands food pantry lost over 50,000 pounds of food and had all its 12 refrigeration units destroyed during Hurricane Ida. PHOTO COURTESY OF JENNIFER VALLEY GLEMBOCKI
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A host of volunteers help the Feeding Hands food pantry clean up the destruction caused by Hurricane Ida. PHOTO COURTESY OF JENNIFER VALLEY GLEMBOCKI
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The Feeding Hands food pantry lost over 50,000 pounds of food and had all its 12 refrigeration units destroyed during Hurricane Ida. PHOTO COURTESY OF JENNIFER VALLEY GLEMBOCKI
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A host of volunteers help the Feeding Hands food pantry clean up the destruction caused by Hurricane Ida. PHOTO COURTESY OF JENNIFER VALLEY GLEMBOCKI

Tropical Storm Ida affected many households and businesses across Somerset County two weeks ago, especially Hillsborough and Manville.

The headquarters of Feeding Hands, a local food pantry that is run by Hillsborough resident Lois Bennett, was one of those buildings that had major flooding issues occur from the storm on Sept. 1.

Located by the Raritan Mall on Route 206, Feeding Hands was flooded with five feet of water and lost about 50,000 pounds of food worth around $100,000 that they were preparing to serve to those in need in the surrounding areas, Bennett said.

This also included the food pantry having all 12 of its refrigeration units destroyed as well.

However, the flooding of its headquarters did not stop Feeding Hands volunteers from pulling together and finding a way to continue their pledge to help those in need.

As Bennett said, Feeding Hands “didn’t miss a beat.”

The food pantry was able to gain access to the sidewalks outside of the Raritan Food Pantry to serve 60 families on Sept. 7.

“We gave out about 4,000-5,000 pounds of food,” Bennett said. “We picked up some new families that had expensive flooding from the hurricane. We didn’t have the amount of food we usually have, but we had plenty enough to give out to those who came.”

This will be the location Feeding Hands will use to serve those in need for the time being, Bennett said.

On average, Feeding Hands serves upwards of 320-350 families every Tuesday. Bennett said the food pantry has families come from all over Somerset County, and also the Princeton and Scotch Plains areas, because of the ability Feeding Hands has to help those in need.

Feeding Hands does have a satellite operation they use once every month on a Saturday at the Manville Reformed Church that feeds around 50-75 families.

Bennett said that location is currently out because of the server flooding that occurred in Manville.

To make last week possible and for all the other Tuesdays throughout the year in providing food to those in need, Bennett said Feeding Hands wouldn’t be able to help the community without its volunteers.

According to Bennett, 60 or more volunteers came out last week to help distribute food.

“We can’t do it without them,” Bennett said. “They’re unbelievable. We love them and they love us.”

Bennett added that local businesses in Hillsborough have been a huge help during these tough times and throughout the past year in doing fundraisers with Feeding Hands.

AMA Pizza, Caldo Sauce Company and Mailbox Business Center are all currently holding fundraisers for the food pantry.

Duke Farms and Duke Farms Community Garden have delivered food and fresh produce to Feeding Hands.

Since the summer of 2020, the Rubarajan family in Hillsborough has donated fresh produce to Feeding Hands after they created their own garden during the pandemic. Bennett said the Rubarajan family donates around 300-400 pounds of fresh produce every few weeks to the food pantry and made that donation last week right after Ida wreaked havoc on the area.

“The Hillsborough community is incredibly important to what we do,” Bennett said.

Following its core values of empathy, connection and stewardship, Bennett says Feeding Hands will continue to help people in any way possible going forward.

Feeding Hands is currently accepting donations to help feed those in need and to contribute to the food pantry’s efforts to land a new lease and replace the equipment lost in the flooding.

A $1 donation equals $6 dollars of food, Bennett said.

To donate to Feeding Hands, visit www.feedinghandspantry.org/donate/.