Hoboken Food Pantry celebrates one-year anniversary of COVID-19 pandemic response

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The Hoboken Food Pantry celebrated the one-year anniversary of their COVID-19 pandemic response, where volunteers and dignitaries were recognized for their ongoing efforts.

“When the pantry started a little over one year ago, we were operating out of a closet-sized room in the Hoboken Community Center to feed about 35 individuals,” Hoboken Community Center Board President Ken Nilsen said.

“Now, thanks to more than 1,200 amazing partners and donors and 220 volunteers who worked 1,750 hours, we’ve grown into a larger space and dramatically expanded our operations to include biweekly distributions that have provided 11,615 bags of food to 1,280 households.”

The HFP was opened in December 2019 by the Hoboken Community Center (HCC), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization located at 1301 Washington St., to address food insecurity among the 96 low-income tenants in the HCC’s Single Room Occupancy affordable housing program that has served the Hoboken and North Hudson communities since 1927.

By early 2020, in partnership with the Hoboken Housing Authority, the HFP began to provide food to the most vulnerable senior citizens in public housing.

“For over a year, the Hoboken Food Pantry has served as a lifeline for our community members impacted by the pandemic,” added Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla.

“I’m incredibly proud of all of the hardworking volunteers who have given hundreds of hours of their time to assist our residents with food insecurity and in need of critical resources. The Hoboken Food Pantry is here to stay, and we as a City are glad to support them as they continue to serve Hoboken. On behalf of our Mile Square – thank you to everyone involved for all you do for our City.”

On behalf of the city, the mayor acknowledged HCC board member Toni Tomarazzo by presenting her with a plaque for her outstanding efforts to keep the operation running smoothly over the past year.

When the first confirmed case of coronavirus in Hoboken was announced on March 13, 2020 with a statewide lockdown announced soon after, the HFP quickly scaled up its operation.

A partnership was formed with the mayor’s office, city council, office of emergency management, the Hoboken Departments of Health and Environmental Services, and Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) to coordinate the collection and distribution of thousands of pounds of food each week.

“I think we have life-changing experiences, right? You go from 8th grade to high school – life changing-experience. I had cancer at 25 years old: I was a lot different after I survived cancer, went through my chemo, than I was when I started cancer,” explained Council President Ruben Ramos.

“And I think for all of us, we’re all a lot different a year ago than we are today, and in a lot of ways, that’s a good thing. I think we’re more humble, more empathetic to others and finding what the needs in our community are and delivering [on] those needs.”

The podium wasn’t just reserved for local dignitaries though, as seven-year-old Satya Singh also weighed in on the importance of the pantry.

“I’m here to talk about why the food pantry is special to me and my family. The pantry is special to me because they provide food for those in need,” she said.

“This is important because people should not have an empty stomach. I care about this because there is a big starvation in the world: people should have a full stomach.”

Tomarazzo also took the time to acknowledge dedicated volunteers, including Health Department Director Leo Pellegrini, business owner Joe Branco, Councilwoman-at-Large Emily Jabbour – among many others.

Over the summer, HFP volunteers created and now run a robust operation that distributes grab-and-go bags of groceries on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month at three Hoboken locations: the HFP at 1301 Washington St., the Multi-Service Center at 124 Grand St. and the Jubilee Center at 601 Jackson St.

Clients also have the opportunity to “shop” for non-food items, such as diapers, toiletries and cleaning products twice per month at the HFP during Family 2 Family hours.

Other dignitaries in attendance included County Commissioner Anthony Romano (D-5) and 5th Ward Councilman Phil Cohen, while the efforts of Councilwomen Tiffanie Fisher and Vanessa Falco, along with Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro (D-33), were also acknowledged.

A longer portion of the program, which streamed live on our Facebook page, can be viewed below: