Table to Table was founded in 1999 by Claire Insalata Poulos along with the support of a small, passionate group of community volunteers, local chefs and restaurateurs and a little guidance from City Harvest (NYC). Labor Day Weekend of that year, one refrigerated van (donated), four food donors and three recipient agencies were mobilized to serve our neighbors in need. It was the beginning of New Jerseys first and only food rescue program and within just a few months, Table to Table redistributed enough fresh food for about 30,000 meals.
Our first fresh food donations came from Whole Foods Market in Edgewater, Allendale Bar & Grill and Alpine Country Club. Immediately following pick up, the food was then distributed to Good Shepherd Mission, Eva’s Kitchen and CUMAC in Paterson. The initiative included generous financial constituents like American Airlines, American Express and All-Clad along with accomplished chefs with kind hearts and the understanding that everyone deserves a good meal and that food should never be wasted.
Now 22 Years Old
Operations continued to grow each year from the days of that single van to the present where we have a fleet of 7 refrigerated trucks picking up fresh food from 150 donors (food distributors, supermarkets, restaurants, and corporate cafeterias), and delivering it to over 250 community partners. These partners include soup kitchens, homeless shelters, residences for older adults, day care centers, homes for victims of domestic violence, after-school programs and pantries serving the working poor. Since our inception we have delivered enough food for 227 million meals and prevented 71,500 tons of food from ending up in landfills.
All the food that Table to Table distributes goes to economically disadvantaged people who are living at or below the poverty level in Essex, Hudson, Bergen and Passaic counties in northern NJ. It is delivered to local nonprofits benefitting every age group, gender, ethnicity, and vulnerable population, with an emphasis on families, children and senior adults.
Feeding even more through fresh produce markets and centralized distribution hubs
Ten years ago, in response to the overwhelming calls for help from Essex County agencies, we began to increase the amount of food being sourced and delivered in Newark. This initiative led to the annual distribution of enough food for 15 million meals, along with the creation of our Fresh Produce Market Network. The 1st market was introduced six years ago to the no/low-income residents of the Ironbound section of the city, in a neighborhood recognized as a food desert. Aware of the importance of working with a local not-for-profit with roots in the community, we partnered with the Ironbound Community Corp. (ICC), located in the city’s East Ward.
The success of the ICC Fresh Produce Market resulted in the opening of additional markets in no/low-income areas of the city – our 2nd in the Central Ward (Bessie Green Community, Inc.) serving a large homeless population, and a 3rd in the Lincoln Park district of the city, established exclusively to serve the needs of the growing senior population. Word of the benefits of the markets quickly spread to Passaic County, where in response to requests from the community we opened its first market in Spring 2019, feeding the women and children residing in an adjacent shelter and the local families in the surrounding neighborhood.
The opening of fresh produce markets reflected a modification of Table to Table’s model of delivering food to individual, stand-alone social/human service organizations and church pantries. Delivering to these organizations will always be a core service we provide as the food becomes a part of their local programming and enables even the smallest groups in the most remote locations to benefit.
But the combination of individual recipient partners and fresh produce markets was still not enough to address the community’s needs. In response we’ve established a network of centralized distribution hubs in Newark, Bayonne, Jersey City and Paterson. These hubs are administered by either schools or local community organizations and provide a location and the coordination of volunteers that allow a variety of organizations, serving multiple populations, to pick up fresh food for constituents that would otherwise have no access.
The key to our operation has always been an emphasis on efficiency and effectiveness, enabling us to feed the greatest number of people with the freshest and most nutritious food. Combining our original model with the Market and Hub Network allowed us to provide enough fresh food to our local community for 38 million meals in 2020. This is accomplished without charging a fee of any sort to either food donors or recipient partners and maintaining an internal cost to our organization of 10 cents per meal. We raise all of our money without government funding and are proud to have earned a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator for the 10th consecutive year. In the true spirit of a community-based program, it is the support of our full range of partners that maximizes our impact.