Essex County to host food distribution event in Irvington

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IRVINGTON, NJ — Looking to help the community once more, the county of Essex and the Board of Chosen Freeholders are teaming up with Mayor Tony Vauss and the township of Irvington for an upcoming event. The two entities have planned an Emergency Food Distribution Program for Thursday, July 9, at 10 a.m. in Orange Park on Clinton Avenue.

According to Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr., this program was born of the need he and his colleagues saw in the community during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Early on, I recognized the need for the emergency food distribution program during the pandemic,” DiVincenzo said on July 6. “People were being laid off from work, supermarkets were facing shortages of supplies and local food pantries and soup kitchens were being stressed to the max, serving more people than they had been in the past. Essex County partnered with the Community FoodBank of New Jersey to host the first food distribution event on April 28 in Branch Brook Park.

“There were 2,000 boxes to be distributed, yet the Sheriff’s Office estimated as many as 5,000 cars lining up. Seeing that, I decided that we continue to hold the emergency food distribution event every Thursday in a different part of the county,” he continued. “We will continue to do this indefinitely.”

This effort has brought together many community-minded groups and persons.

“The first event was co-hosted by Essex County and the Community FoodBank of NJ. Since then, Essex County has been the sole sponsor of the food distribution events,” DiVincenzo said. “At most events, county employees volunteer their time to staff the food distribution event. In other cases, the county has teamed with local community groups to muster individuals to volunteer.

“For example,” he continued, “when we were at Colgate Park in West Orange, St. Barnabas Medical Center provided volunteers. At New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, volunteers from the Masons and the Eastern Stars helped out. At St. Matthew AME Church in Orange, the church provided volunteers, and in Montclair, the Montclair Neighborhood Development Corp. and Montclair NAACP provided volunteers.”

He also talked about what foods will be distributed.

“Each box contains enough nonperishable food for at least 40 meals,” DiVincenzo said. “There are jars of peanut butter and jelly, canned fruit, vegetables, beans, chili, soup and tomato sauce, pasta, raisins, rice, cornmeal, and shelf-stable milk.”

Safety measures will be taken during the food distribution event.

“The safety of our residents and volunteers are paramount and social distancing guidelines are followed,” DiVincenzo said. “Residents coming to pick up food must remain in their cars with the windows rolled up. When they stop their car, a box of food is placed into their trunk by a volunteer. The number of volunteers working at the site is limited and volunteers work in teams of three. One person directs the car where to stop, one person opens the trunk and one person puts the box into the trunk. All are socially distanced. All volunteers must wear masks and gloves, and there is plenty of hand sanitizer available.”

DiVincenzo said his focus politically has always been on helping people.

“An event like this is rewarding because you can see the people being helped,” DiVincenzo said. “It takes a great deal of courage to admit you need assistance and line up for a box of food. Being at each of these events over the last 10 weeks, you can see how much it is needed and how many people are hurting. Some people were facing food insecurity before the pandemic and now there are other families who are facing it for the first time. No one wants to be in that position and watch their family go hungry. That’s what my entire political career has been about — helping people.”

Vauss is prepared to help the township once more, saying on July 6 that he and DiVincenzo “are taking proactive steps to safely provide food and other resources for the residents of Irvington and Essex County who rely on us. We stand prepared to provide emergency food to residents who may be in need, along with those impacted by the economic downturn. This program will help us keep meals on the table for the growing number of Irvington and Essex County residents in need.”