Stuff the bus and cram the cruiser
Annual campaign begins for food pantry


From left, Steve Scro of Mohawk House, Carol Novrit of Sussex County Food Pantry, Byram Chief of Police Pete Zabita and Sparta Chief of Police Neil Spidaletto. All ready for Stuff the Bus and Cram the Cruiser 2017. Photo by Rose Sgarlato

By Rose Sgarlato
SPARTA "All the food pantries in Sussex County are in bad shape," said Carol Novrit, administrator of Health and Human Services for the county, who oversees the Sussex County Food pantry at 83 Spring Street in Newton.
That is why public officials, private businesses and individuals are teaming up this month for the 10th annual Stuff the Bus campaiogn and its Cram the Cruiser companion.
Mohawk House in Sparta will be a major sponsor of Stuff the Bus, which runs Nov. 17-19. Township police forces from Sparta, Byram and Andover will join the collaborative effort with Cram the Cruiser collections at local supermarkets on Saturday, Nov. 18 and Sunday, Nov. 19, as well as at the former Carl’s Auto Body in White Deer Plaza, Sparta.
“We started this 10 years ago, but the demand is high," Novrit said. "The need gets worse every year."
Shw said that, although the unemployment rate has dropped, the draw on food has increased because some people who work don’t qualify for food stamps.
The volunteer-operated pantry feeds 1200 individuals a month and provides about 600 weekend meals to children in five school districts. The pantry is open to anyone, Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 pm.
“We supplement food pantries. And all people have to do is come to Social Services and say they need food,” Novrit said.
Mohawk House is currently accepting food pantry donations outside their front entrance in a big bin. People can also drop off items at Byram, Sparta and Andover police stations starting Nov. 8.
The official Stuff the Bus campaign begins Friday, Nov. 17 at First Hope Bank on Newton Sparta Road. On Saturday, Nov.18 and Sunday, Nov.19, police officers will be collecting food all day at Shop Rite in Byram, Stop and Shop in Sparta and the former Carl’s Auto Body Shop at 5 West Shore Trail in Lake Mohawk.
Steve Scro, owner of Mohawk House, was excited for Stuff the Bus to have a presence in Sparta for the second year in a row, and grateful to Eric Nielsen of Franklin Sussex Automall for providing vehicles:
“I am proud and honored to join forces with Franklin Sussex Automall and local law enforcement in making a difference," Scro said. "I'm hoping to make the holiday season brighter for some family or person in need. My good friend Eric Nielson reminds me each and every holiday season how important it is to share our good fortune. We strive to make a difference year round with the community, but this event is always dear to our hearts.”
Local police officers will assist in moving donated items to the building at Carl’s Auto Body where it will be consolidated and delivered to Social Services on Monday.
"It is great to partner Byram, Andover, Mohawk House, and Nielsen Dodge and Chevy for such an important event," said Sparta Police Chief Neil Spidaletto. "Please come out and see us at these locations and help us replenish the food banks just before the holidays.”
Monetary donations will also be accepted.
Here are some tips from Social Services when donating items:
• · Check the shelf life of items to make sure the dates are recent and not expired.
• · Pop-tops on canned goods is a better choice because people don’t have can openers.
• · Pet food for both dogs and cats is needed.
The following is a list of suggested food items:
o Macaroni and cheese
o Peanut butter
o Cereal
o Boxed Pasta
o Spaghetti sauce
o Meals in a can
o Protein in a can: tuna
o Granola bars
o Toiletries