With the holiday season quickly approaching it is important to not forget those that are less fortunate. Recently “Let’s Talk Jets” radio interviewed Mary O’Connell the Check Out Hunger coordinator for 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 is the largest food bank in the state. We distributed more than 43 million pounds of food last year. That food goes to over 1,000 charities, such as food pantries, soup kitchens, senior programs and after-school programs that serve people in need. Sadly, more than 1 million people in New Jersey don’t always know where their next meal is coming from. That includes almost 340,000 children. That’s nearly one in five kids.
During the holiday season, what are some of the biggest challenges for food banks?
The three biggest challenges for food banks are really the same year-round. Two of them involve the very core of our service mission – food in and food out. First, we need to bring food in through either donations or purchases. Second, we need to be sure that our distribution system, including our warehouse operations, our relationships with the charities receiving food and our fleet of trucks, is all operating economically and efficiently. The third challenge is one the FoodBank shares with almost all nonprofits – raising the funds to support our mission. The holiday season highlights all those challenges. There is a special sense of urgency that no one goes hungry as we celebrate the holidays and begin a new year.
What are the best ways to help support the FoodBank, either as a volunteer or with donations?
The Community FoodBank of New Jersey has one of the largest volunteer programs in the state. Last year, we had more than 50,000 volunteer visits from individuals, families, schools and corporate groups. We really wouldn’t be able to function without our volunteers. They do almost everything that our staff does, except drive the forklifts and trucks! They sort and repack food, assemble our Family Packs and senior boxes, and help at food drives and turkey drives. Of course, another crucial way to help the FoodBank is with donations of food and funds. An easy way to donate is to go to our website at cfbnj.org. Since I’m a fundraiser, I’ll make a pitch for fund donations. Our purchasing power allows the FoodBank to provide five meals for every $1 donated. Also, during this holiday season – from October through January – donations can be made to our Check-Out Hunger® campaign at participating supermarkets and convenience stores. Shoppers across the region will see Check-Out Hunger® placards with $1, $3 and $5 donation slips right at the registers. It’s as easy as handing a donation slip to the cashier, who will scan it and add the amount to your bill. Any donations made will go to the food bank that serves that store’s community. These small amounts make a real difference. Check-Out Hunger® raised $1.5 million just in New Jersey and about $5 million across the region last year.
To hear the full interview click here.