Stuff the Bus for Livingston’s C.H.O.W. (Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse) was held last week at the National Night Out and attendees were encouraged to bring a healthy food donation for the bus. Prior to National Night Out festivities, the bus made pre-event stops at Kings, Shoprite, and designated locations where it picked up organized donations from Stonybrook Day Camp, Livingston Kids’ Camp and the West Essex YMCA summer camps.

All food was delivered to C.H.O.W., a project of the Livingston Clergy Association, at the end of the evening. Housed at St. Philomena’s, C.H.O.W. is open to families in need on a drop-in basis. Excess food collected is donated to soup kitchens and food pantries in the surrounding areas. Families of all faiths are welcomed to access C.H.O.W. and for additional information on C.H.O.W, contact Sister Barbara at (973) 992-1382.

C.H.O.W. was completely empty prior to this event. After the Stuff the Bus, twelve large pallets were filled with bags and bags of food and supplies. Families were scheduled to come the next day to pick up much needed items. At least one local food pantry, which was completely empty, was scheduled to do the same. C.H.O.W. kept some food and supplies for the month of August, which is typically a low donation month.

This event addressed a critical and immediate need, and thanks are in order to all who supported the event. In fact, by the time the Stuff the Bus pulled into the National Night Out, it was nearly 3/4th full with food and supplies.

Stonybrook Day Camp, located in Randolph and serving many Livingston families, kicked off the day by driving a camp bus filled with donations to our starting location. The camp had held a special challenge to fill a camp bus with food and supplies. The camp bus, which was overflowing with bags, met the Stuff the Bus bus for a donation transfer. Members of Stonybrook Day Camp’s Teen Xtreme program, along with help from Deputy Mayor Rudy Fernandez, helped transfer the bags and the teens were also able to speak with Sister Barbara about C.H.O.W. and learn how the pantry works.

Livingston Kids’ Camp had collected much needed food items all summer long, and the West Essex YMCA’s summer camps had organized a week-long drive at their four locations: Camp Peanut Shell, Super Summer Day Camp, Pioneer Trails Day Camp and Teen Adventure Camp. Items were well organized and all loaded onto the bus.

Shoprite staff promoted the event and recommended items for purchase. Shoprite also generously donated $200 in gift cards. Kings organized a pre-event collection of much needed items. The Kings collection was significant
as Kings staff wheeled out nine carts full of items that had been purchased by customers in advance. The carts included diapers, baby food and many healthy food items.

As previously advertised, this event is part of our community's second annual town wide community service project. Supported by many key leaders in town, this effort is coordinated by Deputy Mayor Rudy Fernandez with many service organizations participating. The service origanizations include the Livingston Sunrise Rotary Club, the Livingston Kiwanis Club, UNICO, Livingston Knights of Columbus Council 3553, Livingston Masonic Lodge #11, Livingston American Little League and HCHY. In addition, the West Essex Tribune is also very involved. Please look for additional C.H.O.W. collection boxes throughout town at key locations and at many local businesses. In addition, the focus on C.H.O.W. ties into an already planned community effort, Livingston’s first ever Food Day, which had been in organizing stages when the decision to work with C.H.O.W. was made.

Food Day is a national initiative, sponsored by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, working to bring people together to push for healthy, affordable food produced in a sustainable and humane way. In 2012, Livingston has joined Food Day’s “eat real movement” to help do nothing short of transforming the American diet.  Members of Livingston’s Food Day committee have been meeting and working to plan multiple events under the umbrella Food Day 2012. At a planning meeting, it was suggested that the town consider a Stuff the Bus initiative and in a matter of minutes, the idea grew from just a suggestion to something that could be a reality. To learn more about Livingston’s Food Day efforts or to create your own Food Day event, Contact Eileen Sweeny at
Eileen.sweeny@unitedwaynnj.org for more information.

Thank you in advance for your support of the Stuff the Bus with Healthy Food for C.H.O.W.. This was the second Stuff the Bus event and there will be a final Stuff the Bus event in October. And please remember that C.H.O.W., housed at St. Philomena’s, is open to local residents, of all faiths, in need on a drop-in basis. Again, those interested can contact Sister Barbara at (973) 992-1382.