United Community Corp. expands food pantry to East Ward

Photo Courtesy of Richard Greco

NEWARK, NJ — United Community Corporation opened a second food pantry in Newark on May 3, when the city’s Community Action Agency expanded its food distribution program to the East Ward at Wolff Memorial Presbyterian Church, 106 Ann St. The site also debuted the UCC Clothing Boutique, which is set up like a normal shop but is completely free.

The new location will operate from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.

The goal of opening a food pantry site in the East Ward was long in the works for UCC. The Ironbound District of Newark was hit particularly hard by COVID-19; in late November, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka implemented a 10-day shutdown of the city due to the COVID-19 test positivity rate being higher than 40 percent in the Ironbound.

Securing a food distribution spot in an area of Newark that was so drastically affected by the coronavirus was a key factor in UCC expanding to Wolff Memorial Presbyterian Church.

“We want to be visible to the East Ward community and show that we are able to help,” UCC Executive Director Craig Mainor said. “We know the dire effects that the pandemic has had on that neighborhood and we want to be there to help. Many of those folks are essential workers and we want to be able to serve them.”

UCC’s food pantry has already served more than 30,000 people through the first three months of 2021. In 2020, UCC’s food pantry served 156,177 people. 

“The ones that benefit from us branching out, growing and expanding is the community — the Spanish and Portuguese population living in the East Ward,” UCC food pantry manager Maria Torres said. “The immigrant community is going to really benefit from this as well. They don’t always receive a lot of help because they don’t have documentation. I’m extremely happy that we’re going to be helping that population and that area. I know a lot of people are very desperate and in need.”

The second floor of its Ann Street location will hold the UCC Clothing Boutique. At no expense, clients will be able to come in, browse and “shop” around as if they were at a regular store. The only difference is that everything is free.

“I want to make people feel like they are going to a store,” Torres said. “It isn’t going to be just clothes. We are going to have toys, book bags, all types of things. I want our ‘customers’ to know that they are important to us just like they would be at any other store.”

UCC already operates its energy assistance program out of the first floor of Wolff Memorial Presbyterian Church and plans to have even more services available and more easily accessed for residents of the East Ward.