A group of determined volunteers from Westfield’s Temple Emanu-El descended on the Community FoodBank of NJ (CFBNJ) last Tuesday to help assemble after-school meals for children in the center’s kitchen and sort and pack food supplies in the voluminous warehouse, all of which were destined to provide relief to hundreds of families in New Jersey. 

“Temple Emanu-El has a long history of actively supporting the Food Bank in Hillside, and they reached out to us again,” said Nancy Manket, the organizer and coordinator of the volunteer effort. “CFBNJ had a 60% drop in volunteers last year, and desperately need help. Giving back is so much a part of who we are; it’s one of our temple’s core values.” 

This commitment to Tikkun Olam­, or “healing the world,” said Manket, is what inspires Temple Emanu-El’s army of volunteers to regularly immerse themselves in a variety of social action projects intended to make life better for others in the surrounding communities and beyond. In addition to food bank and emergency food drive projects, the Tikkun Olam Committee houses the homeless, handcrafts “blankets of love” that provide comfort to children and teens with cancer and grows vegetables in their own “mitzvah garden” that they donate to the Westfield Food Pantry. 

Volunteers working in CFBNJ’s kitchen that day helped assemble and pack 425 lunches for the after-school Kids’ Café Program, which distributes nutritious meals to young people throughout Central Jersey and North Jersey. Daryl Walker has been the chef and production manager for five years, and is passionate about what he does.

“It feels amazing to know that I’m able to help feed young kids and seniors,” said Walker. “It’s been a life-changing experience for me, knowing that every single day I’m helping to make a real difference in our communities.”

The CFBNJ is the largest anti-hunger, anti-poverty organization in New Jersey, with more than 1,000 community partners in eleven New Jersey counties, including local soup kitchens, food pantries emergency shelters and child and senior feeding programs. But their hunger-relief programs also address the substantial need by delivering after-school meals for children, distributing bags of supplemental food for families and providing job training for people looking for a second chance. And they also run a diaper program for those who can’t afford to buy them, prepare meals for people returning home with cancer and offer a 16-week culinary course that provides free chef training for those in need.

“New Jersey has been hit hard by COVID-19,” said Traci Hendricks, Volunteer Resources Specialist for CFBNJ. “We will have distributed a record 90 million meals by the end of this fiscal year, and probably more next year. We want our communities to know that we are going to help them. We are going to feed them, no matter what. And we couldn’t possibly accomplish all this without our volunteers; they are our life-line.”

To volunteer for CFBNJ or make a donation, visit https://cfbnj.org. For more information on Temple Emanu-El, or to get involved with the Social Action/Tikkun Olam Committees, contact Jackie Grussgott at jgrussgott@tewnj.org.