Picture a young girl goes to school every day and doesn’t seem to have anything bothering her. But one day one of the students goes up to the teacher and tells them that the young girl hasn’t been eating lunch like the other kids. When the teacher asks the student why she hasn’t been eating, the student simply says, ‘she told me she was on a diet.’
For most people that would come across as strange, but for Sister Barbara Howard and the CHOW group this was eye opening for them. In fact, when she started working with the CHOW group she “thought that it was an exception, until more and more people came forward about needing food.”
CHOW stands for Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse. St. Philomenas in Livingston has been running the CHOW program for the past eight to ten years. It all started when a young girl like the one described above had been attending the Aquinas Academy at St. Philomenas and wasn’t eating lunch like the other students.
The teacher addressed the concern to Howard and from there she contacted the parents in hopes to work with them to provide food for their family.
“My hope for this project is that none goes to bed hungry,” Howard said. “And to have more people in the area be aware that there are people who are in need.”
Kings Supermarket has contributed to food donations by giving customers at check out the chance to purchase a jar of peanut butter to be donated to the CHOW Food Pantry. Soon after, this donation grew into customers being able to donate lunch bags full of food for the students to be able to take for lunch.
“We don’t always know who specifically these items go to, but we do it anyways,” Barbara said.
The CHOW group has also received donations from Knights of Columbus and Kiwanis. The money they receive as donations has been saved for emergency situations, such as if a family was to loose electricity, heat, or water the money saved can go towards getting it back.
“We could never, never be what we are without the good people in our town,” Howard said. “We have had people donate clothes to us, so we started a clothing drive; we have people check the dates on the canned goods so we can give them fresh goods.”
“There’s always something you can do to help,” she added.
The food pantry specifically does not fix their bags. They have one volunteer who will go into the food pantry with the family of one or five people and allow them to pick what they need.
“Some food pantries pick what the families will get in bags,” Howard said. “And the family may get cheerios, but no one in the family will eat them so we allow the families who come to take what they need.”
“And never have we felt that we were being taken advantage of,” she added.
To help a friend or someone that may be in need, volunteer at the food pantry or provide donations, call Howard at St. Philomenas at 973-992-1382.