Spread across New Jersey are roughly 900,000 food insecure individuals, many of whom feel added anxiety during the Thanksgiving and holiday season to feed their families. The Community FoodBank of New Jersey, the largest anti-hunger organization in the state, is working to help ease those anxieties by fighting hunger in 16 of New Jersey’s counties.
“It’s a time where you want every family, regardless of their situation, to be able to reflect on the importance of giving and of having,” said Carlos Rodriguez, president and CEO of the FoodBank. “And who can stomach a family and a child not having food, during any time of the year, but especially during Thanksgiving?”
This Thanksgiving, the FoodBank’s biggest initiative is to create awareness of “our neighbors” that are in need and deliver resources to better their situation. One such event, the Turkey Drive, works toward this goal.
“We want to make sure that we have turkeys, all the trimmings for the Thanksgiving holiday season, because we want families who are struggling to have an opportunity to sit down with their families around the Thanksgiving table,” said Rodriguez.
But, hunger doesn’t end when the season of giving is over. In fact, Rodriguez says that it’s important to maintain the same spirit throughout the whole calendar year.
“This is the season of giving, and it’s also the time where we receive funding, not just for the holidays season, but it’s really when donations that aren’t coming in at the same pace, really help us continue to distribute food and meet the need throughout the year,” said Rodriguez.
Throughout the year, the FoodBank primarily focuses on three objectives: providing food for immediate needs, examining the root of those needs, and working with communities across the Garden State to create awareness and help “end hunger.”
Rodriguez says canned proteins like tuna, chicken, and pasta, healthy cereals, and canned fruits and vegetables low in sodium and sugar are all valued donations, but above all else, “money is preferable.”
“Every dollar helps support up to three meals,” said Rodriguez. “A big reason for that is that we’re bringing in donations from all over the region not just the state. What we need to bring in those donated products is to be able to fuel our trucks and pay for the transportation to bring in tractor-trailer loads of food and get them out.”
Earlier in November, the organization also held SNAP outreach events, in conjunction with the state’s SNAP Awareness Week. Despite roughly 10% of New Jersey’s population being food insecure, many are not enrolled in the state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, so the FoodBank used the week to help enroll eligible families.
“We took a two-prong approach … to get families their immediate needs, especially during the holidays, but also to get them resources so they can go shop on their own,” said Rodriguez.
There are five New Jersey counties not served by the FoodBank. Fulfill serves Monmouth and Ocean Counties and the Food Bank of South Jersey serves Salem, Gloucester and Camden Counties, but the organization claims that they all work together on public advocacy and campaigns, even sharing food with one another.
At the end of the day, Rodriguez says it all comes down to consideration and compassion for your fellow New Jerseyan.