Hundreds of furloughed Atlantic City casino workers get help from food giveaway

EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP, New Jersey (WPVI) -- Furloughed Atlantic City casino workers flocked to a food giveaway in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey on Wednesday.

The Community Food Bank of New Jersey and Unite Here Local 54 planned to hand out 500 meals during the food giveaway but had already given out 700 meals two hours into the event at the Harbor Square Mall.

"We're offering any employee that shows casino ID a 14-day supply of a meal kit, which contains about 40 meals and some supplemental produce to add to that meal," said Kimberly Arroyo, of the Community Food Bank of New Jersey.

Organizers say a line of cars had started to form two hours before the giveaway was supposed to start, so they started early.

"The response has been really overwhelming," said Donna DeCaprio, with Unite Here Local 54. "There were cars here at 8 a.m., and there are cars all the way out to the Black Horse Pike."

"We are coping with what's going on. We get help, we are thankful for that. We appreciate it," said Chalita Ela, a cashier at the Tropicana.

"It's a big help for us and the family," said her husband Sergio Ela, who is also furloughed right now.

Many of the people who came to collect food have not been able to collect unemployment yet, going weeks without pay after Atlantic City's nine casinos shut down last month.

"A lot of them are having issues with their unemployment. They haven't yet gotten any money from the state. So, they're really struggling to put food on the table," said DeCaprio.

Governor Phil Murphy has acknowledged the unemployment delays, and has said those who are eligible will receive full benefits no matter when their claim is processed.

Folks at the food drive say in the meantime, they are struggling.

"It's tough you know - it's not easy," said Domingo Mendez, a Borgata employee.

Organizers of the food drive say they were not expecting the large response, and they are hoping to do it again soon.

Officials with Community Food Bank of New Jersey say they'll need more donations to make more food giveaways happen.

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