"If you're in need, call us and we'll refer you to your neighborhood food pantry," said Michelle Jordan, director of the Interreligious Food Consortium, which just entered its 26th year of service.
Jordan said there are numerous food pantries set up in the suburbs.
"We recognize that hunger is not just an inner-city problem," she said. "It's important to have those resources available in the rural and suburban areas as well. Especially with the cost of gas, it can be hard for those people to get out to the city."
In both suburban and rural areas, food pantries are assigned based on school district. In a large district like Liverpool, the population served is further divided by neighborhood. For example, Jordan said, the food pantry at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Roman Catholic Church off Route 31 serves Casual Estates.
The Food Consortium serves as kind of a clearinghouse for those local food pantries; the organization is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.
"All pantries have the same mission, but it takes resources," Jordan said. "Many of the pantries are run by volunteers so they're not open all the time, so we help with answering questions and screening."
Since hunger and poverty go hand in hand, the Interreligious Food Consortium also helps to set clients up with other programs like HEAP, which provides assistance with energy costs, and WIC, which helps women with small children.
Schools step in
Residents of the Liverpool school district can also, in many cases, turn to their schools. Long Branch, Elmcrest and Willow Field elementary schools have all set up food pantries to serve their students' families.
"The impetus came from a focus at the elementary level on poverty last year," said WFE Principal Henry "Chick" Quattrini. "It's a quiet mission we decided to begin to serve the parents in need in our school community. We decided we wanted to provide support to them."