GREEN — It has been in the news all across the nation, and it’s hittingclose to home: The growing number of residents in need of food during the coronavirus pandemic.


It’s been a near-perfect storm, with residents being furloughed or losing their jobs, food pantries closing or shifting services and volunteers unable to leave home.


Residents, which now include many who may have never asked before, are in need of food for their families, but many are just too embarrassed or too proud seek help, according to Barbara Gardiner, a member of the Tranquility United Methodist Church.


“We know that many people in our area have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic or are just having a difficult time getting enough food on the table,” Gardiner said by phone Thursday.


Gardiner, who has lived in Green and has been a member of the church for nearly 40 years, said she wanted to do her part in helping out a community that has always been very close.


“The church congregation is small, so when we needed something, all we had to do was ask,” Gardiner said. While the church operated a small food pantry, it never was manned and it was always “word of mouth” if there were people in need.


With Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive orders in place, forcing the closure of church, Gardiner has found another way to step up in a time of need.


Using an old file cabinet, Gardiner, with a little assistance from fellow members, placed it outside the church’s community house, located directly across from the Tranquility United Methodist Church on Kennedy Road, and filled it up with non-perishable food items.


Gardiner has called it the File Cabinet Food Pantry, with the green metal cabinet placed out on Saturday afternoon, with all items free to anyone in need of food, not just those in Green Township.


“Anybody who needs it, take it,” Gardiner said. “If you need the food, you need the food."


What makes it unique, Gardiner said, is that anyone can stop by, grab some cans and leave with no one asking questions. Gardiner said she checks the pantry every other day to keep it stocked, with items such as bottled juices, canned tuna and soup, being donated by church members and neighbors.


She hopes that others will be willing to donate items, such as canned fruit, vegetables, plastic jars and bottles. Cardboard cereal boxes and glass are not accepted due to wildlife concerns.


Gardiner said that while the pantry remained stocked the first few days, several people have taken advantage of the program and she has refilled it a few times.


“As long as the need is there, we will be happy to be here for people,” she said.


To get a sense of the number of people who have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic, Murphy, in his daily briefing Thursday, stated that since March 15, more than 858,000 New Jersey residents have filed for unemployment benefits.


“Just to put that into context, one year ago that total number collecting unemployment was less than 10% of that, 84,000,” he said.


The cabinet is located near the doors of the community house, at 4 Kennedy Road (or 4 County Road 611) in Green Township, near the intersection of County Road 517.


Donations of non-expired items in metal or plastic containers are appreciated. Anyone with additional questions can call Gardiner at 908-850-1092.


Lori Comstock can also be reached on Twitter: @LoriComstockNJH, on Facebook: www.Facebook.com/LoriComstockNJH or by phone: 973-383-1194.