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Ag secretary helps pack lunches for homeless

VINELAND — New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas Fisher helped prepare meals for the homeless recently during a visit to the Southern Regional Food Distribution Center in Vineland.
“Volunteers and donations are needed all year long at the many agencies serving those in need in the state,” Fisher said. “I encourage everyone from large corporations to families to get involved in helping our neighbors who find themselves in need.”
The New Jersey Department of Agriculture administers two programs — the federal Emergency Food Assistance Program, which distributes USDA-donated foods to the state’s six contracted food banks, and the State Food Purchase Program, which allocates funds to the food banks for the purchase of nutritious foods, including fresh New Jersey produce — which supplement food and monetary donations to the food banks.
Those agencies provide food items to hundreds of food pantries, soup kitchens and homeless shelters throughout the state.
Southern Regional Food Distribution Center serves 44 food pantries that serve 85,339 people and four soup kitchens and shelters, serving 260,197 meals a year and distributed a total of 896,049 pounds of food last year.
Tammy Morris, center director, said they saw a 48 percent increase in the number of people served by the food pantries between 2010 and 2011.
She said TEFAP and SFPP are essential programs that make a difference in people’s lives.
“Both of these programs are vital to assisting those with limited or no income,” said Morris. “Our agency owes a great deal of thanks to the volunteers at our food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters because without their assistance the food from these programs would not reach those in need.”
Southern Regional Food Distribution Center is part of the Rural Development Corporation, which runs Cumberland Family Shelter, which serves single men and women, women/men with children or intact families.
The shelter was opened to assist an unserved population with their homelessness, since there were not any other facilities in the Cumberland County area.
Over the course of 2011, the shelter, which has a capacity of 56 people at any given time, served a total of 465 people.
The emergency feeding operations in the state fed almost 900,000 people in 2010.
They reported sharp increases in the last three years.
For more information about the NJDA’s hunger programs, visit
For more information on how to get involved or to seek assistance, visit