STROUD TOWNSHIP, MONROE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – Food pantries are stocked with canned and boxed goods, but usually there aren’t many healthy, fresh options available. Struggling families in the Poconos will now have easier access to fresher foods, thanks to a new initiative that launched Friday.
Every other Friday, twenty-two Monroe County food pantries can benefit from ‘Free Fridays’, which runs from 10 a.m. to noon.
The Stroudsburg Wesleyan Church’s parking lot has been transformed into a drive-thru, but customers aren’t ordering burgers and fries.
“Today we have onions, sweet potatoes, cucumbers,” says Jessica Dokachev, Director, Second Harvest Food Bank.
Every other Friday, Second Harvest Food Bank, which is based in the Lehigh Valley area, will bring fresh produce to the Church parking lot. Then, leaders of member food pantries in Monroe County can pick up the food to later distribute it to families.
“We have tons of cookies, we have tons of candy, we get that all the time. But kids need nutrition,” explains Lou DeMatteo, Stroudsburg Wesleyan Church Food Pantry.
Second Harvest has always offered these fresh food distributions, but pantry volunteers would have to travel to Northampton County.
“So to be able to make sure they have access to that food quickly and much more conveniently, we’re hoping that helps us put all that healthy food out in the community to the neighbors who really need it,” says Dokachev.
The United Way of Monroe County and an East Stroudsburg University student recently conducted a study of local food pantries. Results show only 28-percent of items distributed to small families meet certain nutritional guidelines.
“This is just a starting point. We recognize that there’s a problem and an issue,” explains Jennifer Strauch, United Way of Monroe County.
The director of The Stroudsburg Wesleyan Church’s food pantry does have one concern. He says he can’t take much produce, because refrigeration space is limited and the produce might go bad before designated distribution days.