This year National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week is November 12th through 20th and it’s no coincidence that it’s the week before Thanksgiving. It’s the perfect time to reflect, give thanks, and think of others as we enter the holiday season. Many of us make charitable contributions and gifts during this time of the year. Our compassion rises as we take stock of what we have, recognize those who have helped us throughout the year, and acknowledge those in need.
At Table to Table we are beyond grateful for our donors every day. Without them and their long-term commitment to making the lives of our hungry neighbors in northern New Jersey better we could not have rescued more than 15 million meals last year. And without the donated funds used to replace one of our old, small refrigerated trucks with a larger one and our van with a full size truck, we could never achieve the 16 million we are committed to for this year.
As we head into the holidays and wrap up our annual Bag a Lunch, Help a Bunch initiative for 2016, we want to offer our gratitude with some insight. Our trucks pick up nutritious fresh and perishable food in the morning and deliver it that very same afternoon. They start early, sometimes 4 or 5 am, and finish around 4 pm. Surely it’s not hard to imagine the chaos a down truck can wreak on a packed, tight schedule of pick-ups and deliveries. Not to mention the costs of keeping 5 trucks on the road filled with gas, properly insured, safely maintained.
But we’re lucky to work on a multi-lane road, with assistance that comes in a multitude of ways. We are supported with food donations, donated services, and financial contributions. Bag a Lunch is a grand undertaking with about 200 schools, companies and organizations working to raise awareness and money. It’s not just about asking folks to share their lunch money and brown-bagging lunch for the day – it involves so much more.
Well, really, it involves those bags! Each bag that we mail out to potential donors or bring to organizations that participate is touched 4 or 5 times; it’s labeled, stuffed, labeled again, sealed, and stamped. That work is done by volunteers. Another group of volunteers packs up the bags and delivers them to participating schools and companies running the campaign. Once they are filled, our office staff opens and counts everything that is returned. The effort is massive, and again, we get support on both sides – those giving funds and those sharing their time.
If you’ve received a Bag a Lunch bag in the mail, your child’s backpack, or at your work, you’ve seen some of our donors listed. Our Presenting Sponsor, Inserra Shoprite Supermarkets has been a long-term and ardent supporter of Table to Table. They provide food from their stores, funds for operations and participate on our board and committees. Dunkin Donuts and Becton Dickenson are Premium and Grand Sponsors of Bag a Lunch, respectively. And they are joined by Supporting Sponsors, The Children’s Place, PNC Bank, Takasago, American Airlines, and Hackensack Meridian Health. Without them, this program would not have near the impact it continues to have.
This year several companies supported us by volunteering to label and stuff more than 36,000 bags. Suez N.A., Provident Bank Administrative Offices, Unilever, Movado Group, World Finer Foods, CBRE, Fidelity (Paramus office) – all pitched in. Volunteers at Tenafly Presbyterian Church sealed and stamped the bags, once again providing the invaluable help they give us each and every year.
You can see the levels and depth of support we receive for just one drive. Multiply that throughout the year! For those who have been a part of any event or campaign we held this year, we’d like to take this time, during this month of gratitude, to say Thank You! To each of you who has made a donation, stamped and labeled an envelope, ridden on a truck, provided resources, became a sponsor, bid on an auction item, hosted an event, or supported us in any other way – you have helped to keep our trucks on the road feeding children, senior adults, veterans and struggling families in our community. And you have made the lives of our most vulnerable neighbors a whole lot better.