By: Richard L. Smith
The Devils Youth Foundation, which serves as the charitable arm for the New Jersey Devils and Prudential Center, recently awarded a $100,000 grant to UCC to support the agency's Community Refrigerator initiative and ongoing nutritional programming.
The foundation also raised an additional $80,000 through the first round of the NHL Playoffs for another community refrigerator and $60,000 through the second round of the playoffs for a food delivery truck. These efforts brought a total of $240,000 in funding to back UCC's in its goal to mitigate hunger in Greater Newark.
"We could not be more grateful for the generous grant award, funds raised, and support from the Devils Youth Foundation that will allow UCC to create greater accessibility for fresh, nutritional food in Newark for thousands of people," said Craig Mainor, UCC Executive Director.
"Whether it's installing another community refrigerator or educating youth about proper nutrition and health and wellness, we want to ensure that we uplift community members through this award to transform each ward of the city."
"Supporting the United Community Corporation's food distribution services, nutrition education and cooking workshops reflect the Devils Youth Foundation's mission to combat food insecurity across our communities," said Kate Whitman Annis, Executive Director of the Devils Youth Foundation.
"We recognize the great efforts of the United Community Corporation and are thankful for the opportunity to partner with them for the Community Fridge Campaign and other educational initiatives that reach youth and their families throughout Newark."
The Devils Youth Foundation's focus on creating long-term strategic relationships allows its partners like UCC to help implement programs and initiatives to increase access to healthy food options and education for the community's most underserved.
This year, the foundation supported 24 grantees with $895,000 to improve quality of life for New Jersey's youth. The foundation looks to grow its impact in the community by backing partners like UCC with funds to support expanding the agency's community refrigerator program and launching youth nutrition education and healthy cooking workshops.
A food desert is defined as a region where people have limited access to healthy and affordable food.
Since UCC was established in 1964, its staff and volunteers have undertaken multiple initiatives to assist and feed the city's most vulnerable residents.
The nonprofit hosts routine distribution events in the city, where fresh groceries and boxed foods are a staple at any event, alongside providing other outreach resources.
The grant funds will be allocated towards UCC's current healthy food distribution services, including four community refrigerators in high-need neighborhoods' public areas to increase access to food.
Launched in January 2022, UCC's community refrigerator initiative aims to tackle food insecurity head-on by installing units across each of Newark's five wards.
The outdoor refrigerators provide residents with around-the-clock access to staple goods such as milk, juice, cheese, fresh fruits, and vegetables, all at no cost.
The initiative expanded since the first refrigerator was installed at 106 Ann St. in the city's East Ward, which now includes units at South 8th Street, Avon Avenue Elementary School, and La Casa de Don Pedro's Broadway location.
The refrigerators make it easier for UCC Pantry Manager Maria Torres and her staff to drop off food at one local space and provide accessibility for community members to visit each refrigerator site.
With the Devils Youth Foundation's support, UCC will add a new refrigerator in Newark at its Fulton Street Emergency Shelter, located in the city's Central Ward. Upon installing the refrigerator at Fulton Street, UCC's Community Refrigerator Campaign will reach all five wards of Newark.
Officials from UCC and the Devils Youth Foundation hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony on July 6 at the Fulton Street location to officially open the refrigerator to the community.
In addition, the funds from the Devils Youth Foundation will support UCC's plans to provide cooking and nutrition workshops for at least 50 low-income youth at the agency's West Side Park Community Center.
The focus for the classes, which will be led by professional cooks and nutrition/health educators, will teach youth nutrition education and healthy cooking that aligns with the agency's mission to benefit the community's health and wellness.
"By providing access to healthy food, we want to empower individuals to control their health and well-being," Mainor said. "Through our programming, we hope to inspire lifelong habits that support a healthy lifestyle and help to prevent chronic diseases."