With the holiday season quickly approaching it is important to not forget those that are less fortunate. Recently “Let’s Talk Jets” radio interviewed Rich Uniacke, the Vice President of the Southern Branch of the Community FoodBank of NJ, to discuss ways to help out.
Can you tell us about the FoodBank and how it helps the community?
The Community FoodBank of New Jersey feeds hungry families throughout our state. We distribute in excess of 40 million pounds of food each year through our unrivaled network of over 1,000 partner charities; these are food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, etc. – anywhere people go for help. One of the food pantries we run ourselves out of the Southern Branch in Egg Harbor Township. We also operate a mobile pantry to serve areas where brick-and-mortar partners either do not exist or are not yet sufficient to serve that area. We go where we’re needed. 4.7 million times a year someone in need is helped by the Community FoodBank of New Jersey and our network. In addition to our core activity of food distribution, we have teams in the field assisting with SNAP applications, so that households can receive some of the benefits to which they are entitled. Additionally, at our headquarters in Hillside, we have a culinary arts job-training program called the Food Service Training Academy. This 16-week program is overseen by classically trained chefs and focuses on individuals in need of marketable skills – a solid way to earn a living wage. In sum, we provide Food, Help and Hope for the state of New Jersey.
During the holiday season, what are some of the biggest challenges for food banks?
During the holiday season, we make an enormous effort to provide holiday meals for families who are struggling. We balance the significant increased demand from our agencies and households we serve directly with the influx in support that also comes at this time. It’s controlled chaos – each and every day there are significant demands on our teams throughout the state. In simple terms, our challenge is just to keep up – which we always do. But to be more specific, we are bringing in food and funds at the fastest pace of the year. Every $1 donated to the Community FoodBank of New Jersey provides five meals. People know that – so at this time of year, a time when families are coming together and being thankful, they are also donating to us so that we can magnify their impact and provide the food that is most needed at the time on a scale far beyond what a consumer can do at the supermarket. The result is a very, very busy season. Still, the level of interest in feeding our hungry neighbors is something we cherish and always hope to see continue throughout the year. Hunger is a 365-day-a-year issue.
What are the best ways to help support the FoodBank, either as a volunteer or with donations?
Easily, the most efficient way to impact hunger in our communities is with a monetary donation, which can be made at cfbnj.org. Every $1 donated allows us to acquire $10 worth of food for hungry families. The impact of those gifts cannot be beat. We also gladly accept donations of food, including protein-rich items, frozen turkeys, frozen chickens, vegetables, cereal, rice, pasta – the kinds of food you would want a struggling family to have access to. Last, but certainly not least, we rely on volunteers to keep us going. They are our life’s blood. We’re incredibly fortunate to see roughly 40,000 volunteer visits each year at our Hillside headquarters and 10,000 visits per year at our Southern Branch in Egg Harbor Township. Anyone interested in making a monetary donation or learning more about donations of food and/or time can visit cfbnj.org.
For the full interview you can click here as it starts right after the intro.