Bread of Life Food Pantry
Since July 2009, Our Lady of Fatima Parish’s Bread of Life Food Pantry has provided much-needed food and social support to the parish community through a partnership with the Community Food Bank of New Jersey (CFBNJ).
The pantry’s mission is to help families supplement their monthly groceries in a caring atmosphere where each individual is treated with dignity and respect. Currently, the pantry feeds approximately 100 families each month; many of their clients are senior citizens living on fixed incomes, individuals with disabilities, low-income working families, and the unemployed.
The pantry distributes nonperishable food every third Wednesday of the month and the Saturday that follows. By Saturday, the pantry has often run out of the food donated by the CFBNJ and must rely on monetary and food donations from parish members to make up the difference.
The Bread of Life Food Pantry is operated entirely by dedicated volunteers; it has no paid staff. Each month the volunteers load and unload the pantry van, organize and store the food in the pantry, pack the food bags, and then distribute the bags to their clients. The pantry also has volunteers who deliver the groceries each month to clients who are unable to make it to the pantry due to illness or disability.
Pantry staff work out of the parish’s basement and small gym. In the basement, they store and pack the food and register their clients. On pick-up day, the pantry uses the parish’s small gym as a waiting area because the basement is too small for the number of people served.
In addition to much-needed nutrition, the pantry also provides their clients with other crucial social and health resources. They’ve had representatives visit the pantry to assist their clients with health insurance and SNAP (food stamps) applications. Additionally, they provide their clients with pamphlets on nutrition, men’s and women's health, and other relevant topics.
Sometimes members of the community need food more quickly than normal pantry hours allow. For these situations, the pantry has a special emergency food program, which is separate from the main CFBNJ program. All donations for this emergency program come from parish members and local businesses. In these cases, the pantry supplies food immediately and then provides information on how to register for the regular pantry program.
Every year the pantry holds a Thanksgiving dinner for their clients and any other families that may need a hot meal. Many of their clients must frequently wait in line for food, so the pantry views the holiday as an opportunity to give them a rare restaurant experience. Volunteers escort clients to their seats where the entrees, beverages, and desserts are served to them. On Thanksgiving in 2014, the pantry served approximately 200 hot, delicious meals and raffled 18 gift baskets that were donated by parish members.