Almost every week of the year, the Sparta Ecumenical Food Pantry is open to people who need food and supplies. The organization’s president, Valerie Macchio, manages a multitude of details this volunteer position requires -- providing detailed accounts of the people served, managing cooperation among local organizations, ordering, picking up. and delivering -- whenever and wherever the need exists.
Val’s husband, Ralph, and son, Christian, are on hand whenever they are needed as well. This family’s dedication to local residents in need is outstanding.
Regular food distribution on a weekly basis is supported by a small group of volunteers on a rotating schedule. These volunteers receive, sort, and pack donations and then help to distribute to those in need. Holiday distributions and summer lunch and back-to-school programs are provided as well. The pantry is supported by generous local businesses and individuals, with donations of food, supplies, and money.
During these challenging times, the pantry has stepped up their efforts and is working overtime with the community to provide to those in need. The need has grown five-fold in recent weeks. The pantry, in partnership with the Sussex County Hunger Coalition, is working hard to fill this need. The coalition is a group of stakeholders working together to ensure that all Sussex County residents have equal access to safe, sufficient, and nutritious food and also provide some nutritional education. There are over 50 partners in the coalition, including pantries, health care providers, schools, community agencies, and more.
Help from businesses and organizations
In addition, some local businesses and organizations have offered to help. The pantry, with the support of Saint Kateri’s youth ministry and Connect for the Community, made and distributed 250 Easter baskets complete with toys, egg coloring kits, some treats, and lots of love to local children. Lake Mohawk Country Club has a donation shed in the front of the building and many generous donations arrive weekly. The St. Moritz provided fresh produce and prepared frozen meals and soup, Andre’s Lakeside Dining provided trays of frozen baked ziti, and Stop and Shop and ShopRite in Sparta have provided many much-appreciated donations.
Christine and Anya Peruda of LocalShare help out on a weekly basis. Schools have provided food from lunches that they are unused from their distribution to students. Connect for Community has provided much-needed personal hygiene bags. The pantry is complete with pet food for those family members, have an increased amount of pet food to help families with their furry loved ones.
The pantry is located at the Sparta Presbyterian Church all year long. In addition to the regular distribution, storage space, and refrigeration areas the church provides, Pastor Pat offered the use of currently unused space to store the large volume of donations and large tables are used to pack the food for distribution. Annette and Warren from the church staff are always willing to help with a smile. This space provides volunteers the ability to work within the CDC recommended guidelines and is very much appreciated. Volunteers also deliver food to seniors and anyone who feels they cannot expose themselves to infection. To date, thousands of bags have been provided to local Sussex county residents directly and through local agencies.
Delivery to the homebound
The COVID-19 pandemic has placed a heavy burden on many families who may not normally frequent the pantry but have found themselves in need, temporarily. People who come to the pantry should feel confident that precautions are being taken to minimize exposure to potential infection.
Typically the pantry is manned by a small group of regular volunteers. Recently there has been an outpouring of volunteer help during these trying times to pick up, organize, pack and distribute according to increased need. The local businesses have been generous with their time and resources and cooking for us and donating what everyone can.
It will take an effort from everyone to feed the thousands of people in need, we are all doing our part. It will truly take a village to move through the tough time.
We can provide doorstep delivery to the homebound. If you have provided to the pantry and are not mentioned here because of the timing of this article, please know that the pantry and, more importantly, your neighbors can’t thank you enough for your generosity.
Pantry hours are Wednesday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Friday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. If you have a need, or if you are aware of a donation opportunity, please reach out to Val Macchio at the pantry 862-266-0563.
Editor’s note: Jennifer Phillips is a volunteer at the Sparta Ecumenical Food Pantry.
“It will take an effort from everyone to feed the thousands of people in need, we are all doing our part. It will truly take a village to move through the tough time.”