To the unnamed author of the editorial “Quit complaining, South Jersey. It’s getting old”, published Sunday.
There’s one aspect of your article that I can agree with: South Jersey is pretty, isn’t she? But as the CEO and president of the Food Bank of South Jersey, I’ve seen the many hidden corners of the four counties that we serve (Salem, Burlington, Camden and Gloucester) and can attest that it surely isn’t all just pretty beaches and pine barrens. Living in South Jersey today are thousands of individuals who face extreme economic struggles that force them to make tough decisions, such as whether to pay the electric bill or buy the groceries they need to put a meal on their family’s dinner table.
In fact, we help nearly 200,000 residents who struggle with food insecurity each and every day, and of that number, more than 50,000 are children and more than 20,000 are seniors. In all the counties of South Jersey, that number is even more staggering.
So, when you tell South Jersey to “quit complaining” when it comes to receiving the state funding that we need, did you mean to direct that to the 8-year-old child who doesn’t want to admit how hungry she is to her concerned teacher? Or to the 75-year-old senior who struggles to feed not only herself, but also her grandchildren in lieu of paying for medicine and utilities — did you really mean to tell her that those complaints are “getting old?” I don’t think you meant it, because I know that New Jersey is filled with compassionate people and businesses with empathy for what it is to struggle and how difficult it can be to get the help that they need.
Hunger is an unfortunate problem that plagues our neighbors and is often related to a host of other issues that turn a vast majority of our population into what’s considered the working poor. With such a disparity in the amount of government aid that can help those struggling between the northern and southern lines of our state, it is abundantly clear that we need to continue to fight for the visibility of this large population of folks who can’t afford to be glazed over in a report any longer, no matter what zip code their address may bear.
Without the essential support of our state’s funding, accompanied by our caring and generous business partners, we are unable to host critical programs of support for our communities. These include our Summer Meals program, which provides over 90,000 meals to children who need food outside of the school year, or our Hope Mobiles, which transport over 2.6 million pounds of food through tractor trailers that drive to the many “food deserts” — areas lacking a viable network of nutritious food resources — in our areas.
The fact of the matter is: South Jersey is struggling and when we “don’t get no respect,” you better believe that we are going to fight until we do. For those who want to join the Food Bank of South Jersey in our fight against hunger, you can find out more about how to help at www.foodbanksj.org.
Val Traore, CEO and president, The Food Bank of South Jersey. As the CEO of Food Bank of South Jersey Inc, Traore has overall responsibility for the strategic, programmatic, financial and management operations of the $11 million nonprofit organization based in New Jersey. She leads the communication of the vision and program objectives to internal and external constituencies and works collaboratively with the board of trustees in formulating policies, developing strategies, raising funds and achieving performance. Since her arrival in 2006, Traore has tripled the organization's fundraising base, tripled its offering of programs and other services, raised its efficiency rating to the highest level of 4 stars (Charity Navigator) and has uniquely positioned the organization for its next stage of growth.