Claire Thornton


Despite signs inflation might be improving, a majority of Americans this fall felt the economy was making food insecurity worse for millions of low-income people in the U.S.

Last year, the number of Americans who said they didn’t have enough to eat went up, as pandemic-era food assistance programs expired in many states. This November, researchers found a striking one-third of people in the U.S. experienced food insecurity at some point in their life.

Americans continue to say they’re worried about the high cost of food and the unaffordability of other basic needs, like housing. This week’s data, which was gathered from a nationally representative survey, is in-line with what food banks leaders across the country heard from clients this fall: the high costs of everything from rent, to gas to health care is putting intense pressure on people’s grocery budgets. After inflation, homelessness is the second greatest economic concern for people across the country, according to the survey, which was conducted on Nov. 7 and 8.

The report, which was commissioned by HelloFresh, found nearly three in four people feel “the economy is creating a bigger crisis for food insecurity.”

Financial uncertainty became “severe” for low-income people during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, “and it just didn’t go away,” said Jeff Yorzyk, who runs food donation programs for meal kit brand HelloFresh. “It seems like it’s getting worse, and it seems like folks are very concerned about the economy as it relates to food insecurity.”

Researchers also found Americans ages 18-34 were twice as likely as those aged 55 and older to say they’ve known what it’s like to not have enough to eat.

College students and young professionals are struggling to get out from under school debt and undergraduates are more likely to work the lowest paying jobs, because that’s often the only work option their class schedules allow, college food pantry leaders across the country told USA TODAY. One of the easiest ways for thrifty college students to cut back on high-cost fees is to skip the campus meal plan entirely, advocates and researchers told USA TODAY.

“Food insecurity is way more prevalent than anyone would ever think or know,” said Carlisle Watts, president of the student-run food pantry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which served more than 250 students this semester.

Inflation is still stinging for low-income people

Even as inflation has slowed in some consumer categories this fall, grocery prices remain stubbornly high, putting the most pressure on people with very low incomes, who spend a greater percentage of their money on food.

Food prices this October were more than 3% higher than in Oct. 2022, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In New Jersey, Julie Kinner says older people are relying more on her free food nonprofit Table to Table, “because their dollar doesn’t stretch as far.” During the pandemic, seniors got some of the biggest increases to their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program allotments, but after the federal emergency declaration ended, the demographic has seen some of the sharpest drop-offs in benefits.

“Consistently we hear how the decrease in SNAP after COVID hit them hard,” Kinner said. “Imagine getting the same amount of money every month and watching the prices go up. Everybody uses the egg example, but it’s like that across the board.”

Young people face most food insecurity

More so than seniors, younger people are bearing the brunt of the hunger crisis, the authors of this week’s report said.

Among people ages 18-34, more than 40% have experienced food insecurity and reported feeling concerned about hunger for themselves and their families due to the economy, according to the HelloFresh survey.

At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, there are three food pantries on campus for undergraduates, graduate students and nursing students.

“The college-age students are a high-risk group,” said Amanda Holliday, who runs the pantry for graduate students on campus. “You’re pressed for time and resources, and you also are experiencing a change in your support structure. You’re now on your own. Transportation changes, resources change,” she said.

Besides food, the pantries at UNC all provide necessities like toilet paper, menstrual products, diapers and laundry detergent for anyone who needs them. Demand at CJ’s Pantry, which Holliday runs, has only grown over the past three years, and it’s become more important to provide access to culturally-relevant food items for Asian and Latino students, she said.

She said her research found around 10% of students at the Gillings School of Global Public Health experience food insecurity.

“People think, ‘Oh, those people, they have food − they’re not food insecure,’ and that’s not the case,” Holliday said, explaining that CJ’s Food Pantry is named after each of her grandmothers, Celeste and Josephine, who she said were nutrition pioneers working to alleviate hunger in central and eastern North Carolina in the 1940s.

Demand is up at college food pantries

The turnover rate at CJ’s Food Pantry has increased “five-fold” since it launched in 2020, according to Holliday.

“We put something on the shelf and it’s gone in 12 hours,” she said.

She said international students utilize the pantry at some of the highest rates, because they’re not eligible for any federal college grants or food benefits.

In northern New Jersey, “We see more older teens and people in their younger 20s at the college pantries than we ever have before,” said Kinner, whose nonprofit delivers food to pantries at Montclair State University, William Patterson University, Rutgers University and the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

She also said that this year, church food pantries she works with had to extend their hours to meet the needs of more people who have busy 9-5 work or school schedules.

At Colorado University in Boulder, college staff said they’ve seen students struggle to pay for food because work requirements tied to governments benefits prevented students from accessing SNAP, because they’re not able to work the required number of hours per week due to having class.

“We see students regularly skipping meals, choosing to eat less, prioritizing housing costs over food costs and seeking resources that we haven’t seen students seek quite as much in the past,” said Hannah Wilks, who runs the university’s Basic Needs Center. The Buff Pantry, located inside the center, serves around 350 student per week, Wilks said.

“We need to reset ourselves,” Holliday said. “In K-12 education, we’ve accepted how important it is for young minds to have nutrition” she said, referring to free and reduced school lunch programs for kids from low-income families. “And that doesn’t change at 18 − our brains are still growing. Wouldn’t it be nice if every student had access to just one meal a day?”

Free food must also be nutritious, pantry leaders say

Food banks across the country reported getting less financial donations from the public in 2023, which meant they couldn’t buy as much food. Fresh vegetables are often one of the most expensive items for food nonprofits to procure and store properly, said Kinner, who added her nonprofit has seen donations dwindle by more than 50% this year.

“What people don’t realize is that food insecurity can be on a lot of different levels,” Watts, 20, said. “Maybe you can buy almost all of your things but you can’t get everything. Or maybe you can get ramen but you can’t get nutritious, healthy food.”

Nutrition professors at UNC started making fresh meal bowls by hand in recent years to bolster the nutritional value of the items available at CJ’s Food Pantry.

“Cheaper food is often less nutritious, it’s often highly processed and sometimes high in salt and sugar,” said Alice Ammerman, a nutrition professor who had the idea to make “Good Bowls” for food-insecure people at UNC. The bowls’ ingredients are inspired by the health-conscious Mediterranean diet, which Ammerman skews to align with Southern home-cooking taste preferences, she said.

According to the USDA, one definition of food insecurity is when a household must resort to eating lower quality diets, with less variety.

In Newark, Table to Table receives hundreds of pallets of fresh food every week from the local HelloFresh distribution center, which is one of the company’s largest in the country.

It’s critical that food companies ensure their surplus fresh food goes to people in need in the communities they operate in, said Yorzyk, because the level of food insecurity is so great.

“Even a very small percent of our produce turns into a lot of pallets of food,” he said, describing the heaps of fresh carrots, peppers and cucumbers HelloFresh gives to Table to Table. Each week, clients are most excited to get the fresh meal kits, said Kinner.

Fighting hunger means fighting stigma, advocates say

More churches in northern New Jersey are opening food pantries for the first time, said Kinner, who receives applications from community groups wanting to work with Table to Table. It’s a clear indication that food insecurity is a growing issue, she said.

In Chapel Hill, student organizers try to make the Carolina Cupboard as safe and welcoming as possible, because stigma surrounding food insecurity is a very real barrier for students in need, Watts said.

“There’s no shame in asking for help, because it is such a widespread problem and not something within your control,” she said.

When Tar Heels come to the pantry, located in a dorm building, they don’t need to prove anything, like their level of need, Watts said, and they’re allowed to go home with as much food as they can carry, no questions asked.

“We just want to be somewhere that’s quick and easy for them, because food shouldn’t be a barrier to doing any of the things you want to do, or following your dreams,” she said.


Saddle Brook, NJ, December 5, 2023 –If you have visited a school lunchroom lately, you know the amount of food wasted can be staggering.

Table to Table, New Jersey’s first food rescue organization, is on a mission to change this reality with its new initiative, I-Rescue Lunch, which encourages K-12 students to rescue, recycle and reduce food waste while feeding hungry neighbors. Through the use of the nonprofit’s app, Table to Table I-Rescue and key partnerships with school ambassadors, wholesome unopened food like applesauce, fruit, yogurt as well as prepared cafeteria entrees are placed in crates for pickup by Table to Table volunteers and delivered to partners such as shelters, group homes or soup kitchens. Learn more at

“We are always exploring innovative ways to provide our hungry New Jersey neighbors with nourishment, and school cafeterias—with their high levels of waste—seemed like a natural way to leverage our Table to Table I-Rescue app,” says Julie Kinner, Vice President of Operations, Table to Table. “Although this marks the official I-Rescue Lunch launch, Table to Table’s I-Rescue App launched in May 2021 and now serves as the backbone for this school cafeteria-focused program,” Kinner concluded.

As part of the soft launch of I-Rescue Lunch, Table to Table partnered with a team of middle schoolers at Newark Academy in Livingston six months ago. Overseen by their Science teacher, the students collect nutritious, prepared food from the school’s cafeteria, package it up and contact Table to Table to request a volunteer pick up. Schools can also choose to deliver the food themselves to one of Table to Table’s recipient partners.

“I am very proud of the Middle School Newark Academy Food Rescue Team! They saw a problem and took action,” says Debra Tavares, 6th Grade Team Leader & Advisor, Newark Academy Science Department. “Since the spring of 2023, every Friday, the students pack up dining hall food for Table to Table to deliver to their clients. The students are actively contributing to the school’s sustainability focus and contributing to the community in a positive way,” concludes Tavares.

The amount of food waste is school cafeterias is prevalent across the United States. According to a study conducted by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Kroger Company, an average of 39.2 pounds of food and approximately 28.7 cards of milk per student are wasted. And, at the same time, food insecurity continues to be something that plagues even wealthy states like New Jersey. In fact, nearly 1 in 5 NJ children do not know where their next meal is coming from.


(NEWARK, NJ) — Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka, HelloFresh, ShopRite of Newark, Table to Table, and Colavita distributed 3,600 complete Thanksgiving turkey dinners and additional food products to Newark residents on November 20, 2023 at Newark’s Training Recreation Education Center (55 Ludlow Street). The distribution was free and open to the public via drive-through and walk-up.

“Thanksgiving is particularly meaningful in Newark because it is a city which unites to give,” said Mayor Baraka. “Today we hold our city’s Thanksgiving turkey giveaway and celebrate a remarkable milestone – 2 million meals distributed in partnership with HelloFresh through the ‘Meals with Meaning’ program. These wonderful accomplishments are born of a true collaboration where each partner gives and receives with generosity and joy.

“On behalf of the entire City, I extend our gratitude to HelloFresh, who jumped in at the beginning of the COVID pandemic to say, ‘We have food – help us get it to people,’ and they’ve done nothing but step up their commitment ever since. I want to thank Colavita, Table to Table, and WSL Produce House who supply the food and food products essential to our success. And I thank ShopRite of Newark for its deep, long-term dedication to the people of Newark and their nutritional needs. All these partners exemplify the true meaning of Thanksgiving and give us something extra special to be grateful for this year. I wish everyone in Newark a happy Thanksgiving with an awareness of our blessings and our solidarity,” he added.

The event also celebrated a donation milestone of 2 million meals for HelloFresh’s Meals with Meaning program, in partnership with the City. This outreach program began at the beginning of the COVID shutdown in April 2020, providing free meal kits to Newark residents facing food insecurity. The program continues to this day, with volunteers packing and distributing 1,300 boxes per week at locations rotating through the city’s five wards.

“We’re proud to partner with Mayor Baraka and the City of Newark to support local food-insecure families and alleviate the stress of getting access to nourishing meals this Thanksgiving,” said Uwe Voss, CEO of HelloFresh, North America. “Hunger remains a critical issue with more than 1 million individuals facing food insecurity in New Jersey alone. While we’re thrilled to reach our two million meals milestone, we recognize the need to continue providing meaningful assistance to the community and work together to combat food insecurity.”

In addition to the 3,600 turkeys distributed, HelloFresh provided 3,600 side dish kits, a holiday recipe card, and an extra pasta and pesto dish. The event was also sponsored by Colavita, Table to Table, and WSL Produce House.

“For more than two decades, Table to Table has proudly served our hungry neighbors throughout the City of Newark by delivering millions of pounds of fresh, nutritious food donated by generous partners like HelloFresh,” said Julie Kinner, VP of Operations, Table to Table. “We are eternally grateful to work alongside such amazing partners as it truly represents a caring community taking action.”

“In addition to the 10,000 turkeys ShopRite Partners In Caring is donating this holiday season to regional food banks, the ShopRite of Newark will once again join Mayor Ras J. Baraka in providing holiday meals to local families,” said Neil Greenstein, owner and operator of the ShopRite of Newark. “The ShopRite of Newark is proud to donate hundreds of turkeys each year to the city to make sure that neighbors who are struggling can enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving meal. We are thankful to Mayor Baraka and his team and all the organizations that raise awareness about food insecurity and help fight hunger in our community.”

“This means the world…to come out here and celebrate with turkeys. It means so much to our neighborhood and community,” said Alia Clark, a turkey recipient. “A lot of people that will get these are homeless, or don’t have turkeys, or money to even buy turkeys. So, this is like a blessing to our community for you to come out and support us.”

HelloFresh aims to change the way people eat forever, inclusive of those facing food insecurity. Its social impact program focuses on reducing food waste and creating a more equitable food system for those in need. The program consists of their “Meals with Meaning” initiative, launched in 2020, as a response to the pandemic and elevated rates of food insecurity. Through Meals with Meaning, HelloFresh provides 40,000 free meal kits with wholesome, easy-to-follow recipes to people facing food insecurity every single week across the country. Each kit contains HelloFresh ingredients and step-by-step recipe cards to create home-cooked meals.


Mayor Ras J. Baraka, HelloFresh, ShopRite of Newark, Table to Table, and Colavita distributed 3,600 complete Thanksgiving turkey dinners and additional food products to Newark residents this week at Newark’s Training Recreation Education Center (TREC). The distribution was free and open to the public via drive-through and walk-up.

“Thanksgiving is particularly meaningful in Newark because it is a city which unites to give,” said Baraka. “Today we hold our city’s Thanksgiving turkey giveaway and celebrate a remarkable milestone – 2 million meals distributed in partnership with HelloFresh through the ‘Meals with Meaning’ program. These wonderful accomplishments are born of a true collaboration where each partner gives and receives with generosity and joy.”

The event also celebrated a donation milestone of 2 million meals for HelloFresh’s Meals with Meaning program, in partnership with the City. This outreach program began at the beginning of the COVID shutdown in April 2020, providing free meal kits to Newark residents facing food insecurity. The program continues to this day, with volunteers packing and distributing 1,300 boxes per week at locations rotating through the city’s five wards.

In addition to the 3,600 turkeys distributed, HelloFresh provided 3,600 side dish kits, a holiday recipe card, and an extra pasta and pesto dish. The event was also sponsored by Colavita, Table to Table, and WSL Produce House.


Written By Carly Baldwin, Patch Staff

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ — On Tuesday morning, New York Giants quarterback Tommy DeVito stopped by the Meadowlands YMCA to give away Thanksgiving food bags to local families in need.

DeVito, a rookie QB, lives in Cedar Grove. And organizers of the food giveaway described DeVito as “very humble,” who stayed behind to load bags into cars long after the media cameras left.

“Tommy was very humble and very happy to help out, even after the media left,” said one organizer. “He stayed for much longer continuing to help out the other volunteers.”

DeVito is the pride of North Jersey: After hearing that he likes chicken cutlets, Natoli’s Deli in Secaucus sent him a chicken parm with vodka sauce sub to him to enjoy after practice last Friday. See the photos of DeVito with his Natoli’s sub:…

“I sent it to him because I heard he likes chicken cutlets and chicken parm,” said deli owner Steve Natoli. “So now we have a new sandwich on the menu, the Tommy DeVito special (chicken parm cutlet with vodka sauce). He’s Italian, he’s from North Jersey. He went to the same high school as my son, Don Bosco. We’re all really rooting for him!”

More than 450 cars lined up for two miles Tuesday morning at the YMCA on Murray Hill Parkway. Families were given chicken roasters, fresh vegetables and pantry foods that were donated by Inserra Shoprite supermarkets and Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment, which runs the Meadowlands horse track.

“As a football player I’ve seen my share of adversity. But there isn’t any reason why a family shouldn’t be able to put food on the table – especially during Thanksgiving,” said DeVito in a statement provided to Patch. “I couldn’t be prouder to support the Meadowlands YMCA, its volunteers and the other organizations involved to help fight food insecurity in Northern New Jersey — especially because it’s right in my own backyard.”

The YMCA started doing the Thanksgiving food handouts in March of 2020, when the COVID pandemic first began. That was a time when many people lost part-time or in-person jobs, and the demand for food was so great then, said organizers.

“We provided an essential service to Northern New Jersey during the pandemic, but we are still seeing long lines and people struggling to put food on the table — especially because of inflation,” said David Kisselback, President and CEO of the Meadowlands Area YMCA.

It’s not just on Thanksgiving: The Meadowlands YMCA fights food insecurity year-round. In 2022, the Meadowlands YMCA launched a new food pantry program partnering with Table to Table, the Community Food Bank of New Jersey and the Bergen County Food Security Task Force to do weekly food distributions to more than 1,350 people — more than 350 of which are senior citizens.

Most recently, the Russo Family Foundation donated $250,000 and the Y’s pantry is now named the Russo Family Food Pantry.


Monday & Tuesday Events to Help Struggling Families


NEWARK, NJ — City officials, their community partners, and two nonprofit agencies are giving away nearly 5,000 free turkeys this week, along with vegetables and side-dish fixings so that struggling families will have food on their Thanksgiving tables.

Events hosted by the city’s Public Safety Division, Mercy House and United Community Corp. – two of the prominent nonprofits – will hand out thousands of free turkeys on Monday, Nov. 20th and Tuesday, Nov. 21st, in time for the upcoming holiday weekend.

Gov. Phil Murphy, Attorney General Matthew Platkin, State Police Superintendent Patrick Callahan, and county Prosecutor Theodore Stephens are to join Mayor Ras J. Baraka and Public Safety Director Fritz G. Fragé for one of the events, at 1 p.m. Tuesday at Newark Police Headquarters on Clinton Avenue to distribute 750 free turkeys.

“Thanksgiving is a special time of year. Unfortunately, not all families can afford to celebrate it,” said Mercy House Director Cheryl Riley, adding her wish that struggling people and families can “enjoy a Thanksgiving meal and create good memories with their loved ones.”

Here’s a rundown of giveaways:


● Noon, at the Training Recreation Education Center (TREC), 55 Ludlow St., city officials and the Public Safety Division – along with HelloFresh, ShopRite, Colavita, Table to Table, and WSL Produce House – will distribute 3,600 free turkeys, side-dish kits; recipe cards, and pasta–pesto side dishes. Recipients should preregister by contacting ward liaisons:

– North Ward: Stephanie Nieves 973-733-7616 or

– South Ward: David Carter, Jr. 973-733-3013 or

– East Ward: Annie Ferreira 973-733-8893 or

– West Ward: Al-Tarik Clark 973-733-7453 or

– Central Ward: Ursula Phillips 973-733-3393 or

● 1 p.m., at the 2nd Police Precinct, 1 Lincoln Ave., 200 free turkeys will be distributed, first-come, first-serve, to area residents by Public Safety Director Fritz Fragé, Police Chief Emanuel Miranda, and the Newark Police Foundation.


● 11 a.m. at Mercy House, 620 Clinton Ave., the nonprofit will distribute free turkeys and side-dish fixings such as stuffing, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce, as supplies last. To support the giveaway, a private donor contributed $3,500 worth of turkeys and Nanina’s, a Belleville wedding venue, donated 20 large baskets of food.

● 1 p.m., at Newark Police Headquarters, 480 Clinton Ave., 750 free turkeys will be distributed first-come, first-serve, to area residents by city and state officials. The event is sponsored by the National Action Network and Newark Interfaith.

● 1 p.m. at the West Side Park Community Center, 600 South 17th St., the United Community Corporation (UCC) will hold its annual ‘Friendsgiving’ distribution to give away 200 turkeys, chickens, and a variety of other groceries to area residents. Coronavirus vaccinations will be available on-site for free to those who attend.

Some of the city’s nonprofits offered hopeful sentiments for the upcoming giveaways.

“It’s heartwarming and encouraging to see so many people come together to provide for those in need, especially at the holidays,” said Annette Miller, associate director of The Mercy House, who coordinated donation efforts for its Thanksgiving giveaway, one of its largest annual initiatives.

Contact Tony Gallotto at with news tips or interesting feature ideas about Newark, NJ.


Written By  Matt Trapani

The mayor of Newark partnered with HelloFresh and ShopRite to distribute more than 3,000 Thanksgiving meals. The giveaway was at the Training Recreation Education Center on Ludlow Street on Monday.

Volunteers gave out turkeys, side dish kits and other food products to residents.

RELATED: Thousands flock to the airport for early Thanksgiving Day getaway

“We do this event every year….and we also have the help of HelloFresh and Table to Table,” says Newark Chief of Staff Amiri Baraka, Jr. “People are just ecstatic about the way we get down here and we give them the turkeys, we give them the sides, the food.”

Monday was also a celebration of HelloFresh’s milestone of 2 million meals donated for its “Meal and Meaning” program.



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