New Love Center battles food insecurity from the basement



JERSEY SHORE — In the basement of St. John’s Evangelical Church in Jersey Shore, there are shelves packed with food.

But this food isn’t for a church dinner or being saved for a rainy day. No, this food is to help battle food insecurity.

Last week, Alice Fox, board president of the New Love Center took a small group on a tour to show them how the process works.

“We are blessed in many ways. We get a lot of free product, so our clients benefit,” Fox said.

Food distribution is held at St. Johns, 229 S. Broad St. in Jersey Shore on the second and fourth Fridays of every month. The distribution area includes Linden, Jersey Shore, Nippenose Valley, Waterville, Cammal, Slate Run, Avis, Woolrich, McElhattan and Lock Haven. Distribution takes place from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

“We’ve really expanded the coverage area,” Fox said.

The inventory is filled with mostly non-perishable items. The New Love Center has everything from beans to soup to peanut butter. Some of the inventory is purchased, while other items are donated.

Fox, the rest of her board and countless volunteers are fighting food insecurity. In Clinton County, 1 in 4 people are food insecure. In Lycoming County, it’s 1 in 5.

“When you look at food insecurity in these two counties …. it’s staggering. But it’s been a blessing that all of the churches have supported this. We get donations from the churches, from the community, from the stores, it’s amazing,” Fox said.

Prior to the food distribution dates, food is packed in boxes for families to take. While the boxes may not be identical, the contents are similar. There are suggested menus for days of the week with some of the items inside the boxes.

For example, a breakfast menu may include cereal on day one, French toast on day two and cinammon toast on day three.

While the New Love Center provides a host of non-perishable items, it also receives donated items such as eggs, meat, cheese and breads.

“Our goal is to get food out to our clients, not to make them wait,” Fox said.

But there’s a lot more to it than just handing out food, Fox said. It starts with the donations. Items are taken from the trucks into the church, unpacked and divided up. Inventory is taken before distribution can begin.

“We have so many volunteers and there’s multiple movement of the items. There’s a lot of handling, multiple steps. That, to me, is the hardest part of the whole process,” Fox said.

Fox couldn’t estimate how many volunteers participate, let alone volunteer hours.

“It’s amazing. They’re like bees,” Fox said. “We couldn’t do what we do without them.”