Food Drive for Red Cross Pantry in Nutley Breaks a Record

Above: Maxwell Meglio, 12, of Boy Scout Troop 142, and Madeehah Aslam, 22, a Red Cross volunteer, check expiration dates and sort food at the Red Cross Food Pantry in Nutley on March 23, 2013.

With the help of Nutley’s Boy Scout Troop 142 and Cub Scout Packs 141 and 142, the Red Cross food pantry in Nutley collected nearly 11,000 food items last month that will be donated to those in need.

Lisa Zitola-McGuire, community service manager for the Red Cross, said that they have been increasing their numbers during the annual food drive in recent years, however this year’s number was “record breaking.”

“The food pantry here in Nutley assists more than 130 families per month and we’ve been able to do that through community food drives and grants,” she said. “We are grateful to the community for their support.”

Volunteers for the Red Cross and two Boy Scout troops in Nutley could be seen working feverishly in the basement of the Red Cross site to sort the food.

Walt Smith, coordinator of project and chairman for Cub Scout Pack 141, said as scouts slid the foodstuffs across the tables that it is part of a national effort on behalf of the scouts that has grown tremendously in recent years.

In Nutley, the scouts pinned shopping bags to doors of homes and asked that people fill the bags with food, he said. In some neighborhoods 60 percent of residents donate, Smith said. And the food drive provides an important service in his view.

“Even though Nutley is a solid town, with the unemployment rate being what it’s been for the last few years, you get some people falling in between the cracks,” Smith said, adding that the food drive also teaches the scouts about the need to help others.

He marveled at the amount of food the scouts brought in, which could be seen piled in dozens of brown bags. “It’s an amazing site. It just keeps coming in,” he said.

Zitola-McGuire said that 60 percent of the pantry’s food is donated by Nutley residents and that 40 percent comes from the Hillside Community Food Bank.

“We count on the donations,” Zitola-McGuire said as she placed food on pantry shelves. The food drive that they do in the spring holds the pantry over through the summer – during which time donations are low.

She also said that the pantry has seen a greater demand for their services since the beginning of the year. In addition, Zitola-McGuire said the drive helps them increase the number of food items they can report in to the Feinstein Foundation, as part of their participation in the Feinstein Food Challenge.

The foundation provides a $1 million grant that is distributed to food pantries  nationwide each year. The grant is distributed based on the number of food items each pantry has collected during the months of March and April.

Boy Scout Rudolph Meglio, 14, was among the scouts there that day that checked expiration dates on the products and sorted food.

“We’ve had a lot of participants and a lot of generous people willing to donate,” he said, adding: “It makes me feel good.”


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