Students in graduation

Pantry at SBP feeding three times as many people/families

May 22, 2020

In normal times on a busy Saturday, the Pierre Toussaint Food Pantry serves 60 to 80 families and individuals. But these are decidedly not normal times. With the pandemic, Sr. Linda Klaiss, S.S.J., who runs the Toussaint Food Pantry located at St. Benedict’s Prep with Ambrose Amoakoh, reported that on Saturday, May 16, they served 280 families.

“The line of people stretched from the Pantry door on King Blvd. all the way down William Street to the (soccer) field,” Sr. Linda said. The Pantry is now open every Saturday and has been since mid-March.

Sr. Ann, Sr. Maureen and Sr. LindaPeople receive two bags – one has cereals, grains, pasta and the like, while the other contains canned goods, sauces, soups, etc.

“If we have fresh produce and frozen meat, they can get a third bag,” Sr. Linda said.

Sr. Linda has been running the Food Pantry for the past 25 years. Ambrose, a social worker by profession and a parishioner at St. Mary’s Church, has been with her for 15. With the help of a small group of parish volunteers and other volunteers at busy times during Christmas and Thanksgiving, the Pantry has served thousands of needy families over the years. But she has never seen anything like this need. And she has never experienced  anything like the response to the need from many sources.

Most of the food ordinarily comes from the Community Food Bank of New Jersey; Fr. Philip Waters, O.S.B., the pastor of St. Mary’s, would make monthly pickups in the past. Those pick-ups are now weekly and he gets help from fellow Newark Abbey Monks and Benedictine volunteers who have been at St. Benedict’s all year. 

Other organizations have also been helping with the supply. MEND (Meeting Essential Needs with Dignity), an interfaith network of more than 20 food pantries, delivered fresh produce and a van full of frozen meat last week. On Friday afternoons, Sr. Linda, Sr. Ann Marie Gass, S.S.J., Sr. Maureen Walsh, S.S.J. (pictured above) and a parish volunteer pack around 50 bags. Then on Saturday, a small group of parish volunteers packed all morning, from 9:30 to 12 or “until we run out,” Sr. Linda said. “Of course, we can’t have a lot of people,” she added. “And we have to maintain social distancing.”

Donations also come from less likely  sources. Sr. Linda got a phone call from a  student at Rutgers Newark who said his fraternity wanted to make a donation. A couple days later, four or five cars filled with food appeared. St. John’s Church on Mulberry St., which has been feeding men and women for years, shared some of its food. St Rose of Lima Church in Short Hills did a drive by food collection at their church and then drove it all to the Toussaint Pantry.  nd the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Sr. Linda, Sr. Maureen and Sr. Ann Marie’s congregation, sent a generous donation to help buy food.

Donations to the Pierre Toussaint Food Pantry can be made by sending a check to the Toussaint Food Pantry, c/o 520 Dr MLK Blvd, Newark, NJ 07102 or by contacting Sr Linda at

--Noreen Connolly H’11