The immediate months after the holiday season typically produce tough sledding for food pantries throughout New Jersey.

food bank shelves
Dino Flammia, Townsquare Media NJ

Not as many folks are in the giving mood once January hits, even though countless residents still struggle to feed their families on a weekly basis. And that struggle may be even greater for those who devoted much of their limited funds towards holiday gifts in December.

"Everything drops off come January," said Patricia Donaghue, founder and CEO of The Peoples Pantry in Toms River, which distributed 1.8 million pounds of food in 2016.

Donaghue noted hundreds of thousands of pounds of food were donated during the holiday season, but a lot of that was earmarked for holiday distribution, meaning their overall inventory didn't get much of a boost.

"The need is growing every day," she said. "Every day we see between 10 and 15 new clients."

This past year has been particularly rougher than other years for the pantry, which moved to its permanent location at the B.E.A.T. Center in April. Since then, Donaghue said, some of the public has wrongly gotten the impression that the pantry is owned by The FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties or the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Kitchen.

Serving 300 to 400 households per month is a more difficult task this time of year for the pantry of Freehold Area Open Door.

According to Jeanne Yaecker, director of operations, donations "slow down greatly" after Jan. 1, and some items are in very short supply. The pantry can use donations of canned fruit, beverages and protein items such as tuna fish and peanut butter, she said.

"We have a lot of some things, and nothing of other things," she said. "Right now, the one thing we have more than we need is pasta."

Freehold Area Open Door generally distributes one "food package" per month to those in need, and that provides five days of meals.

Click here to help Freehold Area Open Door.

Click here to help The People's Pantry.

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