By Dawn M Chiossi
Helping fight hunger in the community, where hunger and food insecurity is an ever-present and growing concern, The Lincoln Park Food Pantry has been in business a long time. For over 30 years they have been assisting in the shocking problem of hunger. Currently they are assisting approximately 55 families and over 100 individuals.
The food pantry is located at 10 Boonton Turnpike behind the community center in the white building.
Run by Lincoln Park Food Pantry Coordinator, Jacqueline Castaneda and 17 volunteers, these compassionate and dedicated people help to make the problem of hunger and food insecurity as painless as possible for all who enter their doors. Food is non-perishable–either canned or boxed foods, and all donations are welcome.
The Lincoln Park Food Pantry gets its food from a variety of sources including the Community Food Bank of New Jersey, grants, and more.
“There are times when something specific is offered to be donated,” Castaneda explains. “For instance, this month it’s baby items like a car seat and also a dryer. I will post it for our clients to see and try to make a connection. Our pantry is very small so I can’t house items but will always try to find a home for them.”
In talking to Castaneda, it is easy to see her caring for her clients and making her job the best it could possibly be. “One thing I implemented since beginning my position was incorporating fresh fruits and vegetables,” she shares. “Our clients are either very young, elderly, or sick. They need healthy alternatives in food choices, it’s imperative.”
It’s an idea that the clients are thrilled with. “They are beyond happy to have fresh food in their monthly bags,” she prides.
To help accomplish this goal, Castaneda asks for monetary donations.
The Lincoln Park Food Pantry is open to all. Their clients can be from any town, not just Lincoln Park. “Sometimes people are too embarrassed to go to their own food pantry, so they come to us. We never turn anyone away.”
“I love working here,” Castaneda enthuses. “Our families and individuals are referred to as clients and they are assigned a number to ensure anonymity.”
For Castaneda and the rest of the members of the Lincoln Park Food Pantry, it’s all about helping others in such insecure times. “I feel the food pantry is a necessity in this current economy and special circumstances that individuals are going through whether permanent or temporary. Our clients are mostly young families, single mothers, the elderly, individuals who have lost their jobs, or people with illness.”
Hunger and food insecurity can affect anyone, it’s a universal problem and at the Lincoln Park Food Pantry, they recognize that fact. They seek to destigmatize the issue, focusing on the clients themselves. “We treat everyone with kindness and respect,” Castaneda remarks. “I’m big on hugs.”
The community has rallied around the Lincoln Park Food Pantry, doing all they can to help. “It’s always a collaborative effort. It takes a village,” Castaneda asserts. She mentions that they can literally receive truckloads full of donations, and they have regular drop off locations for non-perishable food items at the Lincoln Park Borough Hall, Lincoln Park Library, Lincoln Park PAL, St. Joseph’s Church, and the First Reformed Church of Lincoln Park.
“Our food drives are ongoing projects either from our churches, schools, scouts, sports teams, PAL and so many more. We always have some kind of project going with the scouts. They are so enthusiastic, they feel like they can change the world. It’s very exciting working with them,” she says. “The Boy Scouts donated a full turkey dinner to all of the client families at Thanksgiving.” With a plethora of other efforts out there to help end hunger in the community, such as the Girl Scout Cookie purchase, Boonton High School’s various fundraisers, there’s so much going on to aid the pantry.
“The thing that inspires me the most about the Lincoln Park Food Pantry is the kindness that I see,” Castaneda prides. “People want to get involved. They want to help. In a society where all we hear about is negativity, this is certainly a positive inspiring aspect of human nature.”
When asked about her favorite moments regarding the food pantry, Castaneda has a particular one. “One of my favorite moments happened just last month,” she says. “A little 10-year-old girl named Payton baked cookies for each family. She baked and packaged up over 50 bags of cookies. How sweet is that?”
Additionally, she tells that many people who have utilized the food pantry in the past are now paying it forward to help others. “They are very appreciative that we played a small role in helping them get back on their feet,” she shares.
For further information or details, please contact 973-694-2890 or visit www.lincolnpark.org/186/Food-Pantry