NEWTON The food pantry at St. Joseph Parish here in rural Sussex County has been in operation for approximately 15 years. It has grown as the economy in this part of the county has declined. Newton serves a diverse population and is the regional center for social services in the county. State and non-profit social service agencies are located here as well as several halfway houses, a concentration of migrant workers, and the majority of the low-income housing for the area. Many of the food pantry’s clients do not own cars and rely on the town bus or walking to bring them to the pantry. The pantry also delivers to shut-ins.
“Our numbers have gone from 45 people a month, as of this December, to a little more than 500 who have signed up to receive Christmas food and gifts,” said Sarah Samanns, the parish’s food pantry coordinator.
“This year,” she said, “we are excited to have added an additional benefit to our pantry. In partnership with a local veterinarian, we are able to keep our clients with their pets. This is beneficial to the client’s mental health and provides a safe home for a dog or cat. We found that many of our clients are more concerned about feeding their pet than themselves. This enables both pets and the clients to be fed and stay together. In the coming year a pet vaccination program will also be implemented at no cost to our parish or the clients. “
Under the leadership of Father ST Sutton, administrator, the parish is looking to take the food pantry to the next step in 2016. It will be offering clients an opportunity to “shop” and the volunteers at the pantry will be assisting them with menu choices for healthier eating habitats.
“The food pantry would not be possible without the support of the parish, local businesses, Knights of Columbus, Columbiettes, Boy and Girl Scouts, and parishes in the surrounding area. We could not do the work needed without our volunteers, parish staff, and the youth and not so young of our parish,” said Samanns.