Glassboro: A Community that Shares

NJHI 2020: Small Communities Forging Hyperlocal Data Collaboratives Glassboro Food and Health Equity Project
Rowan students volunteering at ‘Fresh for All’ food distribution event.

Hunger has many faces and most of them are hidden, especially in the United States. People who are hungry often smile to hide their need. They show up for work and school even though they have not had a nutritious meal in days. People who do not have enough food to eat can become obese, as they often have to make meal choices based on what they can afford and not what is most nutritious.

Over the last year, millions of Americans have been forced out of work due to COVID-19. We all watched our televisions, especially during the height of the pandemic, as images of people waiting in long car lines to pick up boxes of food flashed across our screens. These people are not strangers in another country. They are our loved ones, friends and community members. They are, perhaps, the person living right next door to you or the child that sits in your classroom every day. They might even be you. Food insecurity is not an issue specific to the pandemic. Adults, children and seniors have experienced hunger long before the events and job losses of the past year and a half. In a September 2020 news story, NPR reported that nearly 1 in 4 U.S. households is experiencing some type of hunger or food insecurity. The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life. Lack of regular, healthy foods can cause chronic disease and illness, increased stress which can contribute to mental health issues, and problems with learning and focus which can affect job and school performance.

In Glassboro and in communities across this country, there are households who face food insecurity. Our community recognizes the impact that lack of food and resources can have on its members and is working together so that every person and family in need has the opportunity to access healthy foods. The Samaritan Center of Glassboro (also known as the Glassboro Food Bank) on East High Street, is one resource where Glassboro residents can receive prepared bags of food containing perishable items such as fresh produce and meats, in addition to non-perishables such as canned vegetables, pasta, sauce, cereal, peanut butter and rice. The center is state funded but is also supported by local churches and community members on a regular basis. On the third Wednesday evening of every month, NHP Hollybush (formerly known as Hollybush Neighborhood Center) at 300 Ruth Avenue, opens its doors for community members to come and pick up food. NHP Hollybush also offers other programs such as free senior luncheons and a free afterschool program. Kitchen of Hope, which operates out of the St. Thomas Episcopal Church at 212 North Main Street, coordinates a drive-through food distribution event on the second and fourth Saturdays of every month from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Packed bags of non-perishable items, bread, desserts and produce are available to anyone who is in need.

In addition to these three resources, our community has Rowan University’s Fresh for All, a food distribution effort sponsored by Philabundance that takes place in the Rowan University parking lot across from Glassboro High School. The distribution line is staffed by Rowan’s student volunteers and staff and it operates all year long. Individuals and families can pick up fresh produce and no pre-registration is required. Rowan University also has its own Food Pantry and Resource Center, The SHOP, which serves Rowan University students. The SHOP provides non-perishable foods, toiletries and coats. With support from the Rowan University Student Government Association, student groups, fraternities, faculty and the larger Rowan community, any student can stop in and pick up whatever they need. The SHOP is open Mondays and Fridays from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Combined, these providers serve nearly one thousand people each month. Although these support systems may operate separately, they do share one collaborative goal of addressing food insecurity and providing the Glassboro community with nutritious foods and the supports necessary for everyone to thrive. There are times in life when we could all use a helping hand.

“It is not shameful to need help. We are all in this together,” said Becky Foster, coordinator of The SHOP. Her sentiment is echoed by the many people who have come together to donate, volunteer, and share what they have to build a strong sense of community that loves and supports one and all. If you are in need of these resources, please use them. If you would like to make a donation to any one of the programs, please visit the linked websites for information on how you can get involved. Glassboro is a community that has survived for generations because it knows how to take care of the people that make it a great place to live. Glassboro knows that when we share what we have with those in our community, we all win. Let’s continue to work and grow together to keep that sharing spirit alive!

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Michelle Contarino
Rowan University