Last year, our modest fleet of refrigerated trucks rescued and redistributed enough fresh food for 22 million meals. In other words, over 14 million pounds of food that would have ended up in a landfill. That’s a lot of food saved to feed families, seniors, teens and veterans of Essex, Passaic, Bergen and Hudson counties.
So how did it get to them? Through partnerships with 165 agencies who provide countless programs to aid those in need: 99 food pantries, 27 soup kitchens, 26 Newark schools, 20 neighborhood resource centers, 19 after school programs, 16 senior programs, 11 housing groups, 7 group homes…the list goes on and on.
Here are just a few programs that describe how this much needed food is shared.
In Paterson, we deliver to Good Shepherd Mission, a faith-based drug and alcohol rehabilitation program that also acts as a homeless shelter. They offer two meals a day to the residents in the program and to the homeless. A hearty breakfast and a hot dinner are so much more than just food. These meals teach the men that they are safe and cared for at the Mission, allowing them to recover from their addictions, and move on with their lives in a positive manner.
In Newark, we deliver to four, “hub schools”: Central High School, George Washington Carver Bruce Street Elementary, Mount Vernon Elementary and Malcolm X Shabazz High School. Each Friday we deliver 4-8 pallets of fresh produce to each school. The student and teacher volunteers then divide up the food for other Newark schools as well as keeping some for the families in their own school. Who best to know which family has a need than the children’s teachers? The schools have found this food to be more than a meal. These donations bring families back into their schools and in turn they are becoming more involved with their student’s education. “The food pantry has had a positive impact on the community by providing healthy food choices for families. This initiative has actually bought families into the school and then engages them on additional opportunities on how to improve student progress.” – Mr. Naseed Gifted, Vice Principal, Central High School. Caregivers involved with their children…we couldn’t ask for anything more wonderful.
In Englewood, Dion, a volunteer football coach, helps to run a feeding program out of Calvary CDC, a small church with an incredible heart. Each week Dion, a Vietnam Veteran, works with volunteers, many of whom are young students, to create meals for seniors and shut-ins, in the Englewood area. Each of his volunteers are trained in food safety and many are from the cooking program at Bergen Community College. They deliver about 250 meals after preparing the food all day in the kitchen. Dion has big plans for the program. He wants to start a before and after care program for the kids in Englewood and wants to be able to provide hot meals to them each night. When he is ready, we will be too. We will bring more produce, meat and perishables allowing him to serve more of the neighborhood that he loves and cares for.
By the time this blog is published, that 165 agency number may change. Each day we receive calls from agencies that are losing their lease or are not able to raise enough money to stay open. These places are run by volunteers who are committed to neighborhood and their neighbors. They will help a senior walk home with their bag of food or take in a sick child so the single parent can go to work. Some even pay for coats and other necessities out of their own pockets when one of their neighbors are in need. Any time an organization closes, our hearts break for the neighborhood and for those volunteers, yet we know there are others on the waiting list ready to take their place.
On February 1st, we will be working with UCC Newark to open our 3rd Mobile Market at West Side High School in Newark. We are thrilled to have this incredible opportunity to bring food to another school in a neighborhood that has such a great need. Then, in April, we are beyond excited to be expanding our presence in Paterson and opening our 4th Mobile Market. In partnership with the Paterson Task Force and with financial support of Impact 100 Garden State, the market will open every Tuesday from April to November on the Hilltop Haven property.
22 million meals. A lot of food. The goal for 2019 is 23 million. As the goal grows, so does the need. Each day another agency calls desperate for the ability to feed their neighbors. You can hear it in their voice. They want to help, they want to make a difference. Deacon Bullock at UDT in Newark once told me, “we aren’t just feeding the stomach, we are feeding the soul.” We couldn’t agree more.