Hunger doesn’t take a summer vacation…and neither do we

June 14, 2023

I recently received a letter from Denise, a client of our JFCS Betsy & Peter Fischer Food Pantry, that feel compelled to share with you:

“I would like to pass along my appreciation to JFCS for all the help you have given to me and my family these past months. The fresh produce has been life changing. My previous diet consisted of too many simple carbs: bread, salty canned food, and sweets that are a mainstay at many food pantries. As a result, I became borderline diabetic.

Now, given the opportunity to have fresh produce and homemade soups from your pantry, I am happy to say that my last blood work showed normal A1C and glucose values. This is thanks to you!

It really is true that ‘you are what you eat!’

My daughter gets food stamps for herself and her teenage son, but their funds run out by week three. I often get other foods from your pantry to help them stretch their budget and keep my grandson well fed. I am grateful to JFCS for always making me feel welcome and making sure my family has good nutrition. Thanks again for everything you do!”

Denise could be your neighbor, your colleague, or your aunt. In fact, Denise could easily be you or me. Although New Jersey is one of the wealthiest states in the nation, hunger is in every city, town, and suburb. It can quietly invade our lives in one crushing moment after a debilitating car accident, a serious illness, or a job layoff.

Hunger knows no boundaries. It affects a child’s ability to learn, sleep, grow, and develop properly. For adults, the inability to feed their loved ones can lead to depression, anxiety, and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Many seniors face the unbearable choice of paying for housing, medicine, utilities, transportation, or food—and far too often, paying for food becomes the lowest priority.

Who We Serve: Many of our pantry clients hold down jobs and are considered ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed), a term coined by United Way to describe people living paycheck-to-paycheck. They earn more than the federal poverty level but not enough to fully support their families. NJ Patch recently reported that “a significant number of Cherry Hill residents have struggled to make ends meet in recent years…And for many, those challenges preceded the economic turbulence of the pandemic. About 24 percent of township households had trouble affording the basics during the COVID-19 crisis.” As the pandemic continues to recede, financial hardship still is a harsh reality for many ALICE households, which tend to be “overlooked and undercounted” by traditional poverty metrics.

So Much More Than Food! At JFCS, we want to make sure that our community has healthy food to eat. We offer an easy, safe, and dignified way for community members to receive food assistance. Because we recognize that food insecurity is often a symptom of larger issues, we also offer wraparound services including case management, mental health counseling, nutrition workshops, domestic violence support, financial and legal consultations, and referrals to community or government resources. Throughout the year, we offer enhanced support – especially during the holidays such as Thanksgiving, Chanukah, and Passover. In September, we children receive book bags, school supplies and other necessities and in the winter, we supply winter jackets.

Our monthly food distributions to clients are either via home delivery or by appointment at our Rhona Fischer Family Assistance Building. Our volunteers have delivered food to motels, trailer parks, apartment buildings, and large single-family homes. It’s likely that they have even delivered food to someone in your neighborhood.

Each household receives four bags of nonperishable food. Items include canned fruits and vegetables, applesauce, pasta, cereal, oatmeal, shelf-stable milk, juice, macaroni and cheese, rice, boxed mashed potatoes, tuna, peanut butter, crackers, and snacks. When available, we include personal care products, paper towels, toilet paper, and cleaning supplies. We also offer fresh produce to select clients, based upon availability. As you can see from Denise’s letter, this is truly a bounty for those who can’t afford it.

A newer offering is freshly made soups, casseroles, and baked goods prepared by students of our Soups and Sweets culinary training program for adults with intellectual disabilities—a delicious and healthy addition for many clients.

The demand for food support is at its highest during the summer months, when school is out and many local students who rely on free and reduced-price meals no longer have that safety net. This summer will likely be even more challenging due to rising prices at the grocery store and the gas pump. Over the past three months, more than 30 new families have reached out to us each month in search of food support—and we never turn anyone away.

We Need Your Help! Many people aren’t aware that JFCS relies on community donations to keep our pantry shelves stocked. At this point, we are running dangerously low on many essential items.

I am calling upon you to make a difference for hungry children, families, and seniors this summer. If you are able, please consider donating some of our most-needed items, including hot and cold cereal; soups; tomato products; pasta; rice; snacks; peanut butter; canned fish; and juice. We also need allergy-friendly items such as dairy-free milk, nut-free spreads and butters, and gluten-free products. While all items are accepted, donations should be certified Kosher.

Food donations may be dropped off at our Rhona Fischer Family Assistance Building / Betsy & Peter Fischer Food Pantry, located at 6 East Miami Avenue in Cherry Hill, every Monday through Wednesday from 9am to 3pm. We also accept donations at the JFCS main office, located at 1301 Springdale Road, Suite 150, Monday through Friday from 9am to 2pm. Those who wish to donate funds instead of food may do so at 

Finally, if you are struggling to put food on the table, please reach out to JFCS. We know that asking for help can be difficult and embarrassing, but I can assure you that our case managers treat every individual with the highest level of compassion, respect, and confidentiality. Please call us at (856) 424-1333 or email to get started.