Long-running Newark pantry that feeds the poor forced to find new home

NEWARK (WABC) -- A popular and long-running food pantry in New Jersey is being forced to look for a new facility to give out free food.

The pantry has distributed food for 27 years out of a hall at St. Barnabas Church in Newark. But the church closed and is up for sale.

1 out of 5 kids in New Jersey goes to bed hungry every night.

The line of people waiting for food forms quickly on Tuesday afternoons at the parish hall of the church on Market Street.

The pantry has served the community for nearly three decades, but now volunteers are preparing to shut it down.

"If it wasn't for the pantries I don't know what I would do, I don't. They help," said Grace Banks.

The Episcopal Dioceses of Newark owns the property that sits across the street from a construction site.

For three years after the church closed its doors, volunteers were allowed to continue to operate the pantry, so when "for sale" signs went up, they say they were taken by surprise.

The people who run the pantry say they've been told they can stay through December.

After that they'll need to find a new location.

"We need a space and we need a space nearby where the people in this community can come and get their food," said Louise Meggett, who operates the pantry.

Louise was a member of the church. She organizes a group of 10 volunteers who serve as many as 500 people a month. The food is provided by Community Food Bank of New Jersey in Hillside.

"Sad very, very sad, makes me want to cry but we are doing the best that we can," she said. "Who benefits from this food pantry is the elderly the disabled the low income, everyone is welcome."

"You fought for this country and you find yourself here," we said to veteran William Hall. "It helps me out," he said. "You make one of those boxes last a month?", we asked. "Yeah," he said.

The Episcopal Diocese of Newark released a statement saying in part, "There are several other food pantries in close proximity to St. Barnabas', and the members of St. Barnabas' have been encouraged to be in conversation with them to explore the possibility of combining services at another location."

The volunteers say they hope whoever purchases the property, listed at over $1 million, will help them out. In the meantime they're searching for a new location to feed the hungry.

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