Numbers count. Over the last 40 years, the staff at the Bradley Food Pantry have learned that whether numbers increase or shrink, the individual pain of asking for help never diminishes. That is why, every single person who comes to the pantry for food, be it once a week, once a month or once a year, counts.
This month the pantry began a search for a new home. Pantry volunteers hope to raise $100,000 in a short period of time to fund the relocation.
Linda Curtiss, food pantry director said she is confident the pantry will find a new location.
“We are confident that a new location will allow us to continue our tradition of serving our neighbors in need with kindness, respect and dignity,” she said. “We will remain a ‘choice’ pantry where people who come to us are welcomed into the pantry, given a shopping cart, and invited to take the food they need to feed their family for the week. We are blessed with a wide variety of food – shelf stable, frozen, refrigerated, canned and fresh – received from a number of sources. “
She said most of the pantry’s food comes from Fulfill (the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties), she also receives donations from five retail establishments and contributions from the community.
“We still spend $10,000 a month purchasing food in order to have a full complement of the staples needed by our families,” she said. “ Our amazing volunteers, who number more than 150, are ready to go wherever we land and are dedicated to working through whatever challenges may arise so that we remain open 5 days a week and one evening.”
The pandemic aftermath has not been kind to clients, Curtiss said. Average rents in Asbury Park have increased by 13 percent in the past year, food prices increased overall by 10 percent in 2022 and have risen another five percent this year, Curtiss said.
Covid-related SNAP benefits have been eliminated, and the Enhanced Child Tax Credit ended. Those who are employed work in jobs that do not pay a living wage in Monmouth County.
“In short, the families who come to us for assistance have seen prices rise and benefits fall at the same time, wreaking havoc on their budgets,” she said. “Thus, the number of families seeking assistance at the Bradley Food Pantry has increased dramatically over the past two years. Daily visits, which averaged 27 in August 2021, have now tripled, reaching 75-80 on average in July 2023, assisting 850 distinct families.”
Needs and Vision
Recognizing the realities of this new economic environment and increased need, the Bradley Food Pantry is now seeking a new location that will better accommodate the number of families who need assistance. A new location will demand additional resources to pay rent and related expenses.
The pantry, formerly located in space owned by the St. James Episcopal Church, needs to find a new home.
“If we lease, we will need a healthy bank balance to prove we can pay the rent,” Curtiss said. “If we buy, we will need a down payment. In any case, we need your help and generosity. We are looking for 100 people who will donate $1,000 each – or 1000 people who will donate $100 each – and every donation in between. We know it’s a big ask. We also know that there is no deadline on hunger. People need to eat every day. We have so much work to do. Let’s get started now, together.”