ROBBINSVILLE, NJ -- It all started from a conversation at a local basketball game about the community's needs. Then came a three-hour lunch between two community leaders of different faiths, and now, five years later the ONE Project is gearing up to hold its annual NJ Hunger Project.
With a focus on diversity and inclusion, and a goal of bringing groups of all faiths and walks of life together, the NJ Hunger Project has brought thousands of individuals into one place to work side-by-side to pack meals to combat community hunger for the past five years.
Amman Seehra, one of the co-founders of the ONE Project, said that the climate has been brewing for a while amongst the area faith-based community to "do something to have that avenue to get to know one another."
"By being a part of the community and by volunteering, we are working as one to make a difference," Seehra added.
This year's NJ Hunger Project meal packing event will take place on Saturday, July 27 from 9:00am and 1:00pm at Robbinsville High School, 155 Robbinsville Edinburg Road. Volunteers are asked to participate in the 10-person assembly line-style packing in one-hour shifts. Interested volunteers can click here to email and sign up for a shift.
The group hopes to build up on the success of last year's program that boasted 1,600 volunteers and 131,000 meals packed by attracting 2,000 volunteers and packing 150,000 meals. Volunteers of all ages, and from all areas, are welcome to participate. Even children help by coloring the outside of the meal boxes.
Brian Peterson, manager of community and donor relations at Mercer Street Friends, which has partnered with the ONE Project since the beginning, called the meal packing event "a sight to behold."
"It's touching to see all different people from all different backgrounds come together as one to address hunger in the community," Peterson added. "It's electric."
The meals are distributed locally by Mercer Street Friends predominantly through their Send Hunger Packing program that sends healthy food home with children facing hunger. The programs works with 29 schools to provide food to approximately 1,300 children in Mercer County.
According to Feeding America, there are over 919,000 food insecure people, or those that lack the resources to have three meals a day, in New Jersey. Many of those suffering are children, who are even more likely to be food insecure than adults, according to studies.
Peterson noted that hunger and poverty amongst children can often lead to bullying and school absenteeism. He said that the meals created by the Hunger Project are typically distributed to children within three to four months.
Ingredients for the meals are provided by the Orlando, Florida based, Feeding Children Everywhere, for 25 cents per meal and include red lentils, dehydrated rice, and pink himalayan salt - a non-perishable, easy to cook meal that allows for the additional of a protein such as meat, chicken or fish.
In addition to signing up for a volunteer packing shift, direct donations are accepted to cover the cost of the meals with a $100 donation helping to feed 360 people. Donations can be made online through Facebook at ONE Project NJ and at Eventbrite by clicking here. hecks can be mailed to ONE Project 19 Sven Drive, Robbinsville, NJ 08691.
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