National Guard tells food pantry to close

March 30, 2011 8:26:13 PM PDT
It has been a crucial helping hand for years for U.S. troops and their families who live in New Jersey.

A food pantry, run by an all volunteer program, feeds hundreds of military families in need.

But now, that food pantry has been told to close its doors by the National Guard.

The New Jersey National Guard Armory is enormous, but there's apparently not enough room for a tiny pantry that provides free food for service members and families who can't afford to buy it.

The Guard says they don't need it anymore.

"There is a need, when people are calling me in the middle of the night saying, 'Look, I know the pantry is closed, but I need something,' and we're able to fill that need," said Minnie Hiller-Cousins, the pantry manager.

Linda Williams had the need when her husband, a 40-year veteran, was deployed to Iraq and so, wasn't earning a paycheck any more.

"The extra income was really gone and with my grandchildren we needed that extra, the food, to help maintain the home," Williams said.

In a statement, a Guard spokesman said, "To further maintain the pantry isn't necessary due to our operational status. All of our soldiers are safe and at home."

But, many didn't come home to a job.

"A lot of them who come back, came back with very serious problems, with injuries, with post-traumatic stress disorder," said Paula Rogovin, a pantry contributor.

The food of course was the most important thing, but the pantry also provides counseling.

The soldiers are sometimes reluctant to come in for counseling alone, but the pantry though, when they needed the food, would get them into the tent for the other services.

"Without this, the draw is not there," said Stanley Kober, a veteran.

"Your concern is that if they don't come in for the food, then they won't get the other services," Eyewitness News asked.

"Exactly, that's 100% correct, the food is the key," Kober said.

The Guard doesn't agree and the order stands to close the pantry down.

Do you have something to add to this story? Click here to contact Eyewitness News.