Home Events + News Human Food Needs Pantry: Helping Montclair Neighbors Since 1982

Human Food Needs Pantry: Helping Montclair Neighbors Since 1982

by The Montclair Girl Team
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Like many other communities in New Jersey, the township of Montclair faces ongoing food insecurity, with individuals, families, and children needing assistance for services and basic daily necessities. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the issue of food insecurity has unquestionably increased with demand for assistance on the rise. One local organization that continues to lend a consistent and substantial hand in solving our community’s food insecurity issue is Human Needs Food Pantry, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit located at 9 Label Street in Montclair that has led the way in serving those in need since 1982. Read on to learn more about the Human Needs Food Pantry in Montclair.

Human Food Needs Pantry

(Photo credit: @humanneedsfoodpantry)

About Human Needs Food Pantry

From serving just 25 people in its opening year in  1982, HNFP has most recently assisted with over 49,000 visits in 2020, with over 12,000 of those visits tending to children. During the year 2020, the nonprofit also distributed over 593,000 pounds of food, along with many other basic essential products, to those in need.

But there’s more. Human Needs Food Pantry is the largest suburban food pantry in Essex County, and 90% of the funds raised go directly to providing food. The nonprofit relies on its volunteers and support from individuals, communities, and foundations in order to continue making a growing impact on the food insecurity challenges that we face.

The Montclair Girl spoke with HNFP’s Executive Director, Mike Bruno, about the growth of the Human Needs Food Pantry, the impact of COVID-19 on its client roster, and how our readers can help the nonprofit continue to provide for our struggling neighbors. 

Read More: Organizations + Non-Profits to Give Back to in Montclair

Human Needs Food Pantry

(Photo credit: @humanneedsfoodpantry)

The Montclair Girl: Can you share the origin of the Human Needs Food Pantry?

Mike Bruno: HNFP began in 1982 in a Baptist church helping a very small number of people, eventually becoming an incorporated non-profit and growing into what we are today.

MG: How has the team grown since the nonprofit’s establishment?

MB: From a handful of volunteers back in the beginning, we now have a 14 member Board of Trustees, 5 staff members, and over 80 volunteers who are the driving force for our pantry packing bags, picking up donations, delivering food, and serving on our Board.

MG: HNFP provides several services to those in need. Beyond food, what resources does the non-profit provide?

MB: Beyond food, we provide a wide variety of services including clothing, nutritional supplements like Ensure & Glucerna, diapers, wipes, feminine products, basic necessities like bathroom tissue, personal products like soap, shampoo, toothpaste & toothbrushes, etc. 

We deliver food to over 250 homebound clients every single week who are unable to get out on their own. We also provide school supplies and even pet food. Prior to the pandemic, we provided bimonthly medical screenings for our clients done by nurses at Mountainside Hospital which we hope to return to soon. We even try to assist with improving [clients’] employment situations by helping with resumes and more.

Human Food Needs Pantry

(Photo credit: @humanneedsfoodpantry)

MG: Community is the core of many nonprofits and organizations. How has working closely with our community evolved over the years?

MB: The community is the backbone of our organization from which we draw our volunteers, food donations, and monetary support. The expansion of our social media has allowed us to put our needs out to the community and respond in the most amazing fashion helping us meet them.

MG: What have been the most rewarding aspects of maintaining and growing HNFP?

MB: Simply seeing the people we serve feel some relief from struggling to feed themselves and their families. So many people come to us feeling devastated that they reached the point of needing assistance, and seeing them feeling better when we take a small part of that burden from them is what it’s all about.

MG: The pandemic shifted gears for many local organizations and businesses. How has it impacted the nonprofit?

MB: Aside from the dramatic increase in the number of people we served, we have tried to stay true to our original mission of providing food and other services. You could say we’ve “stayed in our lane” and stuck with doing what we do best. We remained open throughout the pandemic thanks to the people who worked despite the threat of COVID-19.

Since the onset of the pandemic, we have added over 1,200 additional households to our client roster. We also now see people from beyond Essex County coming to us for help and are serving people from Passaic, Hudson, Morris, Bergen, Monmouth, Somerset, and beyond. The number of people devastated by this is heartbreaking.

human needs pantry

(Photo credit: @humanneedsfoodpantry)

See More: Volunteering Opportunities in Montclair + Beyond | Summer 2021

MG: What are the current volunteer and donation opportunities?

MB: Food and monetary donations allow us to continue providing for our struggling neighbors. You can visit the Human Needs Food Pantry website for all information including volunteer opportunities. 

MG: What are the next steps for the organization?

MB: We are always looking for new ways to help the people we serve and we hope to expand our services to provide additional types of assistance in the future. However, at present, we are looking for additional space as we have “maxed out” our current facility, so that is a priority for us. We continue to be focused on doing whatever we can for those who are dealing with food insecurity and poverty. We’ve been here serving people for almost 40 years, and we’ll be here as long as people need us!

Human Needs Food Pantry is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:30AM to 12:00PM for donation drop-offs, and from 12:00PM to 2:30PM for client pick-up. You can visit the nonprofit’s main website to learn more about events and check out the Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages for updates.

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