Parsippany, NJ: The Interfaith Food Pantry, Inc., which serves Morris County residents in need by providing emergency and supplemental groceries has announced that it is now doing business as The Interfaith Food Pantry Network (IFPN).
“The new name is a more accurate reflection of who we are and what we do. We are not a just a food pantry and resource center.” said Tim Lockwood, President of the IFPN. “We are a network of pantries and partner agencies that comprise a vast safety net for Morris County residents that struggle with food insecurity”,
According to IFPN officials, the strategy to establish a network of food pantries and satellite food distribution sites via their Mobile Pantry Partners began in 2017. The goal of the network is to efficiently address the social detriments of health by providing access to nutritious foods to clients of smaller pantries in more remote communities, and seniors who lack access to the IFPN pantries in Parsippany and Morristown.
The network currently includes 28 partners located in Butler, Lincoln Park, Rockaway, Jefferson, Netcong, Mt. Olive, Roxbury, Wharton, Dover, Randolph, Parsippany, Hanover, Morristown and Madison. They are smaller food pantries, low-income senior housing sites, and food access sites operated by the County of Morris. “We believe it’s critical to not just employ stop-gap measures to hunger. The long-term effects of food insecurity often lead to health issues such as hypertension, diabetes and obesity. The network addresses this issue by providing more fresh fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy items and grains. Access to healthy foods empower people to take more control over the issues they are dealing with – finding a job, managing financial stressors, providing kids the nutrition they need to do well in school”, said Lockwood.
The Pantry’s network strategy was fueled by data collected during a mutli-year study conducted in partnership with Profs. Patrick McGuinn, PhD and Lisa Jordan of Drew University. That study identified geographic pockets of low-income families and seniors that were outside the radius of accessibility to IFPN’s two existing pantries. The Mobile Pantry was launched in 2017, funded largely by Impact 100 Garden State.
“Our network partners have strong ties to their clients and communities. They understand their needs”, said Carolyn Lake, Executive Director. “The COVID crisis forced many new people to seek help everywhere they could find it. Our pantry numbers grew as did the numbers of people visiting our partners. But even as the need grew dramatically, ensuring the continuity of access to healthy food was critical to our mission. We did not want to slide backward, we instead, leapt forward.”
Volunteers at the New Hope Food Pantry in Oak Ridge prepare for food distribution. The Pantry is one of eleven community pantries served by the IFPN Mobile Pantry.
Contributing to the rapid expansion of the network was the exponential increase in the number of seniors who, during the early stages of the pandemic, were suddenly isolated and had no way of securing groceries. With a skeleton staff the IFPN responded to crisis by working with the Morris County and Dover Housing Authorities to serve 300 seniors in 5 county locations. Additionally, new food pantries were added to the network in Dover, Hanover and Roxbury.
The program is currently accommodating 6,100 household visits, a 140% increase over 2019’s figures. Through the two pantries they operate, the Mobile Network and other Morris County agencies it serves, the IFPN has distributed more than 1.1 million pounds of food during more than 21,000 household visits this year.
“The Interfaith Food Pantry Network is a critical resource for Morris County” said Kathy DiFillippo, Morris County Freeholder. “For 25 years the Morris County government has worked in partnership with IFPN through the Offices of Temporary Assistance, Division of Aging, and Senior Nutrition Programs. They play a critical role in our social services infrastructure as the leading agency providing nutrition and related resources to Morris County residents.”
DiFillippo added, “Even pre-COVID there was a significant population living paycheck to paycheck and many seniors choosing between food and medicine. Food insecurity is not new, but the pandemic exacerbated the problem. We are grateful to the IFPN and the significant safety net they provide to help Morris County families.”
In addition to providing regular groceries, The IFPN also expects to distribute about 2,000 turkeys and baskets for Thanksgiving.. Donations of turkeys, food and funds are being sought. In addition, the IFPN has volunteer opportunities available. For more information, visit www.mcifp.org.
The Interfaith Food Pantry Network (IFPN) is the largest andmost relied upon resource for emergency and supplemental food among Morris County residents in need. IFPN employs innovative approaches to hunger and food insecurity that improve the health and well-being of individuals and families by providing access to food, education, and related resources. The IFPN operates food pantries and also partners with other agencies across the County to foster a culture of volunteerism, and educate the public about the issues surrounding food insecurity. For more information, visit www.mcifp.org