With the pandemic and unemployment, food pantries across New Jersey have been seeing an increased demand for supplies since the spring.

But with Thanksgiving coming up in a couple of weeks, as new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations surge, demand is now shooting through the roof.

Carlos Rodriguez, president of the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, said they have been buying and stockpiling additional supplies for the past few months.

“It’s part of just being ready for any of the many changes that this pandemic has introduced our way,” he said.

Earlier this year, when businesses began shutting down, requests for food assistance increased by at least 40% compared to last year. That number is expected to shoot past 50% between now and the end of the year.

Rodriguez said because of the pandemic, New Jersey is now estimated to have close to an additional half a million food-insecure residents, on top of the 900,000 who faced food insecurity before the health emergency began.

“What we’ve done, first and foremost, is make sure we’ve got enough food on hand to be able to make it available to our partners," he said.  The nonprofit opened an an auxiliary warehouse to stockpile that extra food.

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Rodriguez suggested as Thanksgiving Day approaches, people should consider donating — either food, money or time — to their local foodbanks or pantries.

“We’ve opened extra shifts throughout the day and throughout the week, so if you can, if you’re healthy, we encourage you to visit online and find out when and where you can volunteer," he said.

Former Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, the president of the Jersey Shore food bank Fulfill, said demand for food assistance has been rising dramatically in Monmouth and Ocean counties as people who lost their jobs have gone through their savings.

“These are the people we’re beginning to see now, in tears, upset, crying because they don’t have a livelihood. They’ve never been to a pantry, they don’t know how to ask for help," she said.

She said for Thanksgiving, demand for turkeys has shot through the roof. So if people want to help, “they can send us turkeys, turkey breasts, they can send us canned meals, canned vegetables.”

Guadagno said her group would be happy if people to donate “any kind of canned vegetable, any kind of canned meal. It’s something we will immediately turn around and hand out.”

She said all New Jerseyans should be checking on their neighbors to make sure they have enough to eat.

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