Turnbach, Maruca continue community giving in post-public life with food distribution for those in need

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TOMS RIVER, NJ – It started as an effort to help families in need during the pandemic as Governor Phil Murphy forced the long-term closure of businesses and enforced a financial lockdown statewide. It was billed as two weeks to flatten the curve, but two years later, that decision is still negatively impacting the lives of Toms River residents.

On the two-year anniversary of the “Pop the Trunk” food distribution event at the Toms River Presbyterian Church, residents in need were greeted by former Toms River Councilmembers Terrance Turnbach and Maria Maruca. Both former public officials lost their 2021 re-election bids, but continue helping the volunteers as the church distribute food to those still affected by the Murphy lockdown, and now Bidenflation and the Biden gas and energy crisis.

Residents can simply pull their cap up, pop their trunk and tell volunteers what they need, with no questions asked.

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Food and groceries are provided by Fulfill and Toms River Mayor Maurice Hill’s assistance, Art Gallagher said this week, over 2.7 million pounds of food has been distributed by church volunteers.

“Throughout the two years, the demand for food assistance has ebbed and flowed. Even though the pandemic is subsiding, the need for food assistance is surging, according to Chuck Watson, Operations Manager at Fulfill, due to the rampant inflation and rising gasoline prices,” said Gallagher, who was hired in January by Hill to manage the township Facebook page for an $89,000 annual salary, plus benefits.

Former Democrat Councilman Terrance Turnbach continues pitching in to feed the hungry in Toms River, months after losing his 2021 re-election bid. Photo by Art Gallagher, Toms River Township.

While the need for food distribution on this level would have appeared to wane as people got back to work, those struggling residents have been hit with multiple whammies under the administration of President Joe Biden.

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Gasoline prices are surging, food costs are skyrocketing, home energy bills are going through the roof. In recent days, the Biden administration has pivoted on their messaging of blaming the policies of former President Donald J. Trump on the rising inflation, dubbing the crisis, the “Putin Price Hike” although those problems began months ago shortly after Biden took office.

Each week, the church distributes 450 food boxes courtesy of Fulfill, formerly known as the Food Bank of Monmouth and Ocean County. Boxes provided by Fulfill include groceries to feed a family of four for up to six days.

In an interview with the Asbury Park Press, Mayor Hill said, “I thought it was going to drop off, but after COVID, now it’s all about the cost of living.”

This comes after Hill presided over one of the biggest property tax increases and shifts in Toms River history, through a recent property tax re-evaluation that saw taxes rise as much 100% for many low and fixed-income seniors citizens in the township.

Related: It is what it is, Toms River Council President says after seniors hit with 40% tax hike

Residents in need can receive free food distribution each Friday from 9 am to 1 pm at the Toms River Presbyterian Church at 10170 Hooper Avenue.

Photos by Art Gallagher – Confidential employee to Toms River Mayor Maurice Hill.