HAMMONTON - Community leaders promoted hunger awareness last Wednesday during Help Bag Hunger at many area ShopRite stores.

Mayors, council members, police and other community leaders bagged groceries to support the ShopRite Partners in Caring hunger-fighting initiatives occurring at participating ShopRite stores throughout the area during September, which is Hunger Action Month.

Hammonton Town Councilman Mickey Pullia bagged groceries at the ShopRite of Hammonton. “It’s a very worthy cause, and people should see that we do care. It’s a very serious concern in our country and our town, so we get a member here every year to come and do whatever we can to help,” said Pullia.

“It helps show community involvement,” said Doug Jones, assistant store manager.

ShopRite stores are participating in a fundraising contest to benefit ShopRite Partners in Caring, a year-round hunger-fighting initiative. Stores that raise the most money from Aug. 28 to Oct. 1 will be represented on a special edition General Mills Cheerios box next year. The money raised by area stores is donated to the Community Food Bank of New Jersey and is distributed to food banks in local communities.

The number of people suffering from food insecurity continues to rise, according to officials.

“Hunger really isn’t what people might think of as hunger,” said Lorelei Alden, inventory coordinator at the Community Food Bank of New Jersey. “We are trying to make people aware that it’s people who are working, but they are struggling to put food on the table after paying their bills. We are trying to bring awareness at the food bank that it’s your neighbor, it’s people that you work with, it’s people that your kids go to school with.”

Donating food or donating money, Alden said, helps. “You give when you can, and when you need assistance, we are here to help out.”

Help Bag Hunger events were held at several locations.

The Absecon Police Department helped bag groceries at the ShopRite of Absecon; the Galloway Township Police Department, fire department and township committee members lent a hand at the ShopRite of Galloway; the Somers Point Police Department and Michael Francis, a field representative from Congressman Frank A. LoBiondo’s office, participated at the ShopRite of Somers Point; and the Egg Harbor Township Police Department, township committee members, Lite Rock 96.9 and members of Victory AME Church helped bag groceries at the ShopRite of English Creek. Representatives from the Community Food Bank of New Jersey lent a hand at each event.

“Customers have been great about donating, and they love it when the police are here bagging,” said Maryann Martin, assistant store manager at ShopRite of English Creek. “We had great community involvement.”

ShopRite Partners in Caring is a year-round, community-based, hunger-fighting initiative that works with more than 50 food industry manufacturers to provide $3 million annually to qualified charitable agencies in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Maryland.

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