News from the Somerset County Board of County Commissioners

Shanel Y. Robinson, Commissioner Director Ÿ Doug Singleterry, Commissioner Deputy Director

Sara Sooy, Commissioner Ÿ Melonie Marano, Commissioner Ÿ Paul Drake, Commissioner

December 11, 2023

Contact Brad Fay at (908) 231-7628 for more information.

Record Food Shortage Prompts Somerset County & Somerset Patriots to Launch Fundraising Effort

Local Food Pantries Report Demand for Food Has Doubled Since Last Year

BRIDGEWATER, NJ – The number of Somerset County families seeking assistance from local food pantries and banks is up between 50 and 100% since last year, prompting Somerset County and the Somerset Patriots, the New York Yankees Double-A affiliate, to announce a joint food drive to encourage donations of dollars, food, and personal care products. The effort was recently kicked-off at TD Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater as part of a holiday toy and food event organized by the team.

Patriots Co-Chairmen Jonathan and Josh Kalafer have announced a challenge grant, with the team and Kalafer family matching monetary donations made by the public between December 8 and December 20 on a dollar-for-dollar basis, up to $25,000.

“Unfortunately, food insecurity in our area is at a point that demands immediate attention and support from our community,” said Josh Kalafer. “No one should be unable to provide food for their family or not have the assistance available to them through local food banks and organizations.”

Added Jonathan Kalafer, “This is a very aggressive campaign that requires all of us to do our part to help those that are in need. We are challenging our entire community to step up to the plate and help us make a difference.”

Somerset County and the Patriots are offering two ways to donate:

  • Direct dollar donations can be made starting December 10, to any of four major food pantries and banks in Somerset County listed on the Somerset County website at

Checks sent by mail will also count if the words “Somerset Challenge” are written on the memo line. Every dollar donated in these ways will be matched by the Patriots, up to a maximum of $25,000.

  • Alternatively, the public can donate canned or other nonperishable food and personal care items in bins located at any public library in the county, or at the TD Bank Ballpark at 860 East Main Street in Bridgewater.

“We applaud the generosity of the Somerset Patriots and the Kalafer family, in helping us raise awareness and funding to address the serious food insecurity problem we are facing this holiday season,” said Somerset County Commissioner Director Shanel Y. Robinson. “High food prices and reduced Federal support have created a serious shortfall in resources to address hunger here and across the country.”

“Family visits this year are 63% higher than at the peak of the pandemic,” said Lois Bennet, director of Feeding Hands food pantry in Hillsborough. The Franklin Food Bank reports that visits are up 55%, from 11,000 last year to over 17,000 this year. And the Food Bank of Somerset County reports that visits have doubled since 2021 from under 12,000 to 25,000.

Clients of food pantries in Somerset County include many people seeking assistance for the first time, as well as longer-term clients.

James is an example of a new client at Feeding Hands in Hillsborough. Once employed in a corporate job, he now works for a food delivery service company. Even working full-time, he cannot make ends meet.

“Rents are too expensive averaging about $2,000 per month, plus gas, health insurance, medication costs, and the price of food is rising,” he said. “The food bank has been a blessing not only for me but for a lot of people who are struggling. There’s a stigma about getting help from a food bank, but the volunteers are so welcoming and kind, they put everyone at ease. Anyone who is feeling uncomfortable about receiving assistance from a food bank should just stop by and they will feel better about it, knowing they are not alone.”

A Feeding Hands client of five years is Dolores M., who cannot afford to feed her family of five children with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits alone.

“There are times when we’ve had to share an apple. I don’t like having to rely on benefits but have no choice,” said Dolores tearfully. “I have hope for the future though. My daughter is an honor student in math, and she will go to college on a scholarship. All of my children are smart, and I am looking forward to them having a brighter future. For now, the foodbank is helping us get by.”

Participating Food Pantries and Banks

Food banks and pantries participating in the Somerset Challenge food drive include Feeding Hands Inc.; the Food Bank Network of Somerset County; My Neighbors Pantry at Zarephath Church; and the Franklin Food Bank.

About the Somerset Patriots

The Somerset Patriots are the New York Yankees Double-A Affiliate and develop today’s top minor league talent into the pinstriped superstars of tomorrow for MLB’s winningest team. The Patriots were the 2022 Eastern League Champions and play their home games at TD Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater, NJ, where fans of all ages and levels of baseball fandom get to enjoy the unique experience that is minor league baseball. To learn more, visit:

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