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For the 27th year, the Atlantic County Utilities Authority teamed up with the Community Food Bank of New Jersey – Southern Branch for their annual holiday food drive to help provide nourishment to those facing food insecurity across Atlantic County.

“The food that the ACUA is bringing in is precious food,” said Renate Taylor, development officer for the Community Food Bank, which serves Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland counties — all ranked within the top four counties for food insecurity in New Jersey.

“If we are not here, children and families do not eat,” said Taylor.

This year, the ACUA holiday food drive brought in a total of 21,236 pounds of food. During the holiday drive, which ran from Dec. 4 through Dec. 15, the authority asked Atlantic County residents to leave canned, non-perishable food items in any kind of bag next to their recycling items during pickup days.

“It seemed like a very easy and convenient way to donate food,” said Monica Coffey, communications manager for the ACUA, about the holiday food drive. Taylor echoed those thoughts, “It’s as easy as taking your recycling out, which we all do.”

Residents need not have worried about their donations being mistaken as recycling though as, according to Coffey, the ACUA workers are well trained in identifying what is a donation and what is recycling.

With approximately one million people facing food insecurity in New Jersey — of which approximately 300,000 are children — chances are most people know someone who is experiencing it.

“These people are our neighbors and coworkers,” said Coffey, who was especially horrified by the number of children facing food insecurity.

“To think there are children who are hungry is heartbreaking,” she said. While the reality of food insecurity is bleak, events such as the ACUA holiday food drive bring some much-needed hope.

“They are the bomb,” said Taylor about the ACUA. The feelings appear to be mutual, “They are a wonderful organization,” said Coffey about the Community Food Bank of New Jersey.

The ACUA holiday food drive may be over, but there are still plenty of ways to help provide food for those facing food insecurities, such as volunteering or donating. In fact, according to the Community Food Bank of New Jersey website, just $1 can help provide three meals.

For more information on the Atlantic County Utilities Authority, please visit its website at www.acua.com.

For more information on the Community Food Bank of New Jersey, please go online and visit its website at http://www.cfbnj.org.

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