TOMS RIVER, NJ — “How many families? How many people?”
It’s a question Jeanette Schlapfer asks dozens of times each Friday as cars and SUVs pull up in front of the Presbyterian Church of Toms River, arriving to pick up food to get them and their loved ones through another week.
The quick questions — How many families? How many people? — help the dozen or so volunteers working alongside Schlapfer determine how many boxes of food to load into each vehicle. But they also are emblematic of the bigger problem of food insecurity.
Food insecurity has long existed in America and in Ocean County. Even in times where joblessness has been low, there have been people in need of help feeding themselves and their families.
An estimated 37.2 million Americans, including 11 million children, were considered food insecure under U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines before the coronavirus pandemic hit.