Pastor Doris C. Peterson, CRE, likes to keep things simple at the Elizabeth Avenue Presbyterian Church food pantry in Newark.
She does not require clients to demonstrate need or get referrals, for example. She asks them only to show ID, reasoning that it’s hard enough already to have to ask for food. She also does not get food from the Community Food Bank of New Jersey, saving her loads of paperwork. Because the pantry has many elderly volunteers, it doesn’t have the manpower to pick up from the food bank anyway, she said.
Despite the simple approach, the Elizabeth Avenue food pantry offers a complete service. It provides bags of groceries and/or hot meals to 30 to 40 clients every week (except for one week a month when it only offers groceries). Pastor Peterson does the shopping, taking advantage of Shop Rite’s 5% senior discount on Tuesdays, as well as the cooking, along with a handful of volunteers. A wide range of clientele are regulars, including seniors with grandchildren, single men on disability, and a few without homes.
The pantry gets by on donations from Newark Presbytery, Catholic Charities, and MEND, which has been helping the pantry since well before Pastor Peterson began at the church 21 years ago. “MEND is our lifeline,” Pastor Peterson said.
Having grown up as the oldest of 13 kids on a farm in Virginia where hunger was not an issue, Pastor Peterson acknowledged the irony of having hunger in a land of plenty. “I can’t imagine, with all the abundance in this country, that people have to beg for food,” she said.
Elizabeth Avenue Presbyterian Church
761 Elizabeth Ave.
Newark, NJ 07112
9:30 – 10:30 am, Thursdays