Helping to meet essential human needs of food-insecure residents of Orange and East Orange, NJ, with dignity and respect
A proud member of the MEND network of food pantries and a proud partner with the
One Year Since Pandemic Hit NJ
We mark one year this week since COVID hit New Jersey. We are so grateful for you, our valued volunteers and supporters, who have been with us as we continually regrouped to serve our neighbors. During this time, we know many have experienced enormous pain and hardship caused by the pandemic. We hold you all in our hearts, and are filled with deep appreciation for the efforts of so many over the past year.

This is what the IFPO looked like during the last year:

  • On March 9, 2020, we sent the first newsletter with volunteer information in light of Covid. Over the course of this year, due to the need to keep everyone informed as the pandemic continued, we sent 34 newsletters to our supporter base.
  • On March 11, we held our first post-Covid pantry, but cancelled client choice. With the world in flux, we provided heavily packed "to go" bags of food and produce to 280 clients (down from our usual 350 at that time). We distributed diapers to 155 babies enrolled in our diaper program. 
  • On March 18 and 25, we cancelled pantry due to the closure of our former home at the Church of the Epiphany and Christ Church, 105 Main Street, Orange, where the IFPO had operated for more than ten years. Aware that we might not have access to our pantry supply rooms for weeks but that food was needed in the local community, we transferred all of our pantry supplies and maxipads to our partner MEND. They distributed it all to Essex County pantries within the MEND network that were still open.
  • We began to arrange for emergency food to be brought from the Community Foodbank of NJ (CFB) into Orange and East Orange, starting with an entire tractor-trailer of emergency food boxes.
  • In early April, we started making calls (in three languages) to clients to confirm their addresses. The City of Orange delivered emergency food boxes, as well as diabetes food for clients in the diabetes program, to those clients we could easily locate in both communities. Diaper deliveries also began. Pickup options were set up for East Orange residents to receive food, and direct deliveries of food were made as needed to homebound clients in East Orange by the IFPO Board. Outdoor socially distanced bagging events were held.
  • By late April, we had secured the use of rent-free space at 357 Jefferson Street, Orange, for six weeks from our amazing partner HANDS, "a secure, convenient location to temporarily store food, diapers and supplies". We signed a short term lease for that same space in June, as we realized we would continue to need this space through the summer. By fall we had signed on for a full year and added another small unit next door.
  • The IFPO, Orange and East Orange began to receive a weekly supply of 60 produce boxes from The Common Market under the newly created USDA Farmers to Families program. By June, Orange was receiving 250 produce boxes and 250 dairy boxes each week, and the much larger community of East Orange was receiving between 1,800 - 2,200 boxes of produce and dairy (yogurt, cheese and milk) each week! 
  • Food, diapers and masks were delivered by an amazing IFPO volunteer corps through the end of June, with neighborhood and congregational food drives providing a significant source of food for us. We also were providing pre-packed bags to Holy Trinity Food Pantry, MEND, and the Church of the Epiphany and Christ Church.
  • In early July, we suspended direct deliveries due to increased traffic and logistical complications as people began to head out of their homes. We held a short trial of appointment-based food distribution in the Epiphany and Christ Church parking lot at 105 Main Street for a small number of clients. By August, we began holding both walk-up and drive thru distributions for existing clients by appointment only at 357 S. Jefferson Street.
  • We provided non-perishable groceries, fresh produce, toiletries and maxipads to more than 600 clients throughout the month of August, and provided 175 diaper clients with a full case of approximately 100 diapers, wipes and ointment. We also supervised a mobile distribution of needed school items to 40 IFPO children in 20 families, provided from the NCJW/Essex Back to School Store.

  • Our numbers began increasing in September as more clients became aware of our new location, and we started adding new clients from in and around our new neighborhood. We created afternoon pantry hours to help clients who could not get to us during the morning due to their children learning remotely. High Holiday food drives brought us significant food.
  • We used a $20,000 Covid relief grant from the Grotta Fund for Senior Care to support seniors. We were happy to support local businesses Southern Comfort CafeHat City Kitchen and Sandwiches Unlimited as they kicked off their first deliveries of individual meals for seniors.
  • By October, we were receiving 180 Farmers to Families boxes each week with 5 pounds of potatoes, apples and cucumbers; milk, cheese and either sour cream or cottage cheese; frozen hot dogs and frozen chicken, with 500 of these boxes delivered each week to Orange and 1,500 boxes to East Orange.
  • In November, we provided 40 IFPO children with a winter coat, hat, gloves, a shirt, pants, and underwear under Phase 2 of NCJW/Essex's Back to School Store program, and gave coats to an additional 20 of their siblings.
  • During the fall, we began Phase 3 of "Food, Health and Hope: An Answer to Diabetes", co-sponsored by Summit Medical Group Foundation and the CFB. Enrolled clients received diabetes-friendly food and extra produce twice a month, as well as wellness checks and education.
  • We offered children's books on many pantry days, a wonderful way for clients to add to their personal libraries.
  • We held turkey drives in November, as well as drives for filled holiday bags. Since the need to socially distance precluded our usual Thanksgiving coat distribution in 2020, we requested coats be delivered directly by our supporters to the cities of Orange and East Orange for their distribution to residents. Our Thanksgiving distribution (historically our largest day of the year) provided turkeys, holiday and regular groceries, Bombas socks, a turkey pan, a multi-pack of masks, hand sanitizer, and a $20 ShopRite gift card to each of 500 by-appointment IFPO clients. We purchased and gave out fantastic, hearty produce boxes from The Common Market with carrots, kale, onions, fresh cranberries, apples, butternut squash, cauliflower and sweet potatoes for our Thanksgiving distribution.
  • We brainstormed on how to recreate our Holiday distribution for a pandemic. In December, we collected 1,200 stocking stuffer bags, holiday treats (pancake mix, syrup and hot chocolate) and 1,500 snack bags from our generous supporters. On Dec. 23, we gave each of 400 by-appointment IFPO clients fish, clementines, holiday and regular groceries, stocking stuffer bags, two snack bags, gloves or socks, and a $20 ShopRite gift card to allow them to buy toys for their children or holiday treats for their family. We again provided clients with a fantastic, hearty produce box we purchased from The Common Market, filled with potatoes, a winter radish mix, apples, sweet potatoes, leafy green mix, winter squash and onions.
holiday treat bags
  • During the pandemic, the IFPO directly impacted 30,507 individuals. We had a total of 8,413 client visits (including deliveries). We served 13,723 children and 2,720 seniors.
  • Our amazing diaper program distributed over 207,000 diapers in 2020, serving an average of 200 babies each month.
  • By January, 2021, we were regularly serving 375-400 clients a week; continuing Phase 3 of the diabetes program in conjunction with the CFB and Summit Medical Group Foundation; and continuing to ensure massive quantities of food came each week to Orange and East Orange. Our annual oil drive allowed us to provide this valued commodity to clients.
  • An additional Grotta Fund grant allowed us to add Spice N Thing to the senior meal delivery lineup.
  • By the last week of February, despite massive snow, we were serving 470 clients a week, and had begun bagging by "weekend warriors" to meet demand. In February, we gave out cases of diapers, wipes and ointment to 242 babies -- a new pandemic high for us! East Orange and Orange received close to 40,000 pounds of food, and additional amounts of produce, this month.
  • We have continued to increase our weekly deliveries to clients who are unable to come pickup their food during pantry hours and are fortunate to have a team of volunteers doing approximately 40 deliveries each week. 
  • Throughout this year, we have maintained a Help During Covid page on our website that is updated on a daily basis, as well as constantly providing timely resources about food availability, covid testing and vaccines, and other important information on our Facebook page.
We look forward to seeing a bit of light as we move towards spring, both in warmer temperatures, increased rates of vaccination, the passage of the next Covid relief bill and hopefully a move towards more normalcy for the community and our country. We at IFPO will continue to be here to support the community with the outpouring of volunteer and financial support from all of you. Thank you for being such a solid base from which we can evolve and grow in these changing times.
We post pictures on Facebook as the IFPO continues in action. Follow us on Facebook to see all the great weekly happenings!
The Interfaith Food Pantry of the Oranges is an equal opportunity provider.