The Interfaith Food Pantry of the Oranges (IFPO) is a “client choice” food pantry that provides supplemental and emergency food, fresh produce, diapers, feminine hygiene products and toiletries to low-income individuals and families. The IFPO primarily assists residents of Orange and East Orange, NJ. The IFPO is an all-volunteer, collaborative effort of four religious congregations in Short Hills and South Orange, New Jersey— Christ Church in Short Hills, Congregation Beth El, Congregation B’nai Jeshurun, and Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel.
The IFPO has been serving the Orange and East Orange communities for more than 25 years, growing tremendously from a small group that initially served 20-30 clients per week. In 2019, the IFPO assisted nearly 38,000 area residents,18,000 of whom were children. Fully 44% of the people we impact are children. There were over 12,000 total pantry visits in 2019, double the number of pantry visits from 5 years ago.
Impact of Covid-19
The IFPO began operating in alternative space in Orange during the pandemic, as our historic Church space was no longer available and we needed a site where social distancing was possible. In the spring of 2020, when the Oranges were hit very hard with COVID cases, our volunteers delivered food and diapers directly to significant numbers of IFPO clients. During the summer of 2020, we transitioned to an appointment-based food pickup service for registered, existing IFPO clients. By the fall, we were operating both a walk-up and car line system of pre-packaged bags and produce boxes as well as a very small delivery system for a few elderly and disabled clients who cannot get to our new site. We currently serve as many as 425 clients a week. Throughout this entire time, IFPO leadership has worked closely with the Community FoodBank of NJ to bring tens of thousands of pounds of perishable and non-perishable food to the City of Orange and East Orange Township for their direct distribution to residents in need.
The IFPO began operating as a client choice pantry several years ago, offering clients more of a grocery store experience, to select their own food, rather than receiving a pre-packaged bag of groceries. This process encourages healthy choices, offering fresh fruit and vegetables weekly, while also serving clients with dignity and respect. Unfortunately, we had to suspend this model and institute pre-packaged distributions during the pandemic in order to limit the handling of food. We hope to be able to offer client choice again.
The IFPO is one of a few area pantries that offers a Diaper Program to assist new parents. Before the pandemic, we distributed more than 13,000 diapers, wipes and diaper cream monthly. The IFPO provided diapers to 358 babies each month in 2109. In In June, 2021, we provided 255 babies with a full case of approximately 100 diapers, wipes and ointment, essentials not readily available from other sources. Babies got their diapers when clients came, by appointment, to the S. Jefferson parking lot to pick up diapers and food.
The IFPO participated in three phases of a pilot initiative called "Food, Health & Hope: An Answer to Diabetes" sponsored by Summit Medical Group Foundation and the Community FoodBank of NJ. In 2019-2020, 63 pantry clients received extra healthy food and produce as well as nutrition education twice a month, wellness calls reminding clients of FHH program goals and education principles and COVID-19 related education. Despite the challenges of Covid, a cohort of Phase 3 clients received bi-monthly diabetes friendly food and produce, as well as limited socially distanced nutrition education; A1C levels have dropped across all participating pantries. SMGF is screening IFPO clients for Phase 4 of this life-changing program.
The IFPO is a member of MEND, Meeting Essential Needs with Dignity, an interfaith hunger-relief network of 21 Essex County food pantries (click here for a list of all MEND pantries). The IFPO serves the most clients of all participating pantries in MEND’s anti-hunger network.
For the most up-to-date information about our activities, distributions and local partners, visit our Facebook Page.