Across Middlesex, Mercer, Passaic and Union counties, 4,000 restaurant-prepared meals were served to go at soup kitchens and houses of worship, purchased by the ambitious anti-hunger initiative FeedNJ.
This week set the record for meals served in a single week in 2021 by the initiative, which was launched one year ago today, April 16, 2020.
“People are hurting across the state, and not just those who are unemployed or living on the streets. This recession has hit many people, brutally," Reverend Reginald Atkins, the senior pastor and founder of the Zion Family Worship Center Church.
"And enjoying a hot meal, especially when they know it was made by a restaurant they’ve been to or wanted to eat at, makes them feel special.”
FeedNJ is operated by Platinum-rated (Guidestar) non-profit SoupKitchen411 and is different from many anti-hunger organizations in that it buys meals at or near retail prices from local restaurants, which in turn bring those meals to soup kitchens.
This is an essential function as most soup kitchens have been operating without volunteers since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and without the ability to hire additional staff, or often even retain a full staff (while a great deal of state and federal aid has gone to food pantries and food banks, far, far less has gone to soup kitchens.) For the staff of soup kitchens, there are few days off.
Meal services at New Destiny Community Development Corporation, located at 129 Chestnut Street in Roselle will continue Mondays at 5:00 p.m. for the foreseeable future, with meals from Bayway Catering in Elizabeth. Other meal services held this week which will be held at the same time every week moving forward include:
- Mondays and Thursdays at 10:30 a.m., 350 meals at Elijah’s Promise 18 Neilson St, New Brunswick
- Wednesdays and Fridays at 10:00 a.m., 200 meals at St. Joseph's Soup Kitchen, 118 Division St, Elizabeth
- Wednesday at 10:30 a.m., 1,500 meals at TASK, 72 Escher St, Trenton
- Thursday at 10:30 a.m., 500 Meals at Eva's Village, 393 Main St, Paterson
“When people come here for food, and they see meals from their favorite restaurants or restaurants they know of, it makes them feel special," Chef Dave Bein, Kitchen Director at Eva’s Village, where FeedNJ has served over 2,500 meals to date, said.
“The unprecedented challenges of this pandemic require action that supports small businesses, and public-private partnerships such as ours,” SoupKitchen411 Co-Founders Ken DeRoberts and Philip Gentile said.
“After building an infrastructure to buy meals in bulk, we intend to raise our output more than tenfold in Year 2. We expect to serve well over 500,000 New Jersey restaurant-bought meals to hungry New Jerseyans over the next 12 months.”
If you or anyone you know is experiencing food insecurity, please know that resources are out there, including SoupKitchen411.com’s free database of local soup kitchens, food pantries, and other food services.
Call your borough hall or state and federal representative and ask what programs near you are able to help.
Anyone may visit soupkitchen411.com to make a tax-deductible contribution or email firstname.lastname@example.org to recommend a restaurant (which meets all Health Department Safety Standards) from which to purchase meals, or soup kitchen or collective space to partner with for meal distributions.