SUMMIT, NJ - Beacon Unitarian Universalist Congregation (Beacon UU) in Summit has debuted 'Neighborhood Beacon', an effort that seeks to alleviate food insecurity for area families -- while supporting local business -- through the purchase and subsequent donation of gift cards from local restaurants and food purveyors.

While 'Neighborhood Beacon' was launched in response to the COVID-19 crisis, combating food insecurity has been an ongoing focus for Beacon UU, as some 13% of families and individuals in New Jersey are food insecure.

Fighting hunger goes to the core of Beacon’s mission to feed the human spirit and heal the world, says Reverend Dr. Robin Tanner, Beacon’s co-minister. “This pandemic is a magnifier. It has intensified the inequities in our community, but it also can magnify our deepest values including compassion, solidarity and ultimately universal love.”

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The initiative draws on financial contributions from Beacon members and purchases gift cards, then partners with social services organizations to distribute them to food-insecure residents. The initiative rolled out in Summit in partnership with GRACE's food pantry.

To date, the project has raised $3,000 to buy gift cards and has been expanded to Maplewood / South Orange, Long Hill Township, Berkeley Heights, New Providence and Westfield. Other beneficiaries include families whose children attend Chancellor Avenue School in Irvington, which has a 15-year partnership with Beacon.

Those Interested in donating can contribute via PayPal by visiting summitbeacon.squarespace.com/neighborhood.