MADISON, NJ – Numerous Rotary Clubs organized the fourth annual End Hunger event on Saturday, March 9.
The goal was to package 250,000 meals for distribution to 40 sites in the area, including MENDNJ, Interfaith Food Pantry of the Oranges, Bloomfield Church on the Green Food Pantry, Vocationist Sisters of Florham Park, St. John’s Soup Kitchen, Family Promise, NORWESCAP, Bernardsville Food Pantry, Market Street Mission, Interfaith Food Pantry of Morristown, Homeless Solutions, Table of Hope/Bethel Church, Community Soup Kitchen, Rutgers Student Food Pantry, Drew Emergency Food Pantry, College of St. Elizabeth Emergency Food Pantry, FDU-Florham Emergency Food Pantry, St. John’s Episcopal Church Soup Kitchen at Trinity Lutheran Church, Soup Pantry at Trinity Lutheran Church, North Porch, Prima Pasa Day Care, Dover Senior Citizens, Community Center of Dover, Randolph Food Pantry, Rockaway Food Closet, Loaves and Fishes Community Food Pantry.
As stated by the Rotary Club, “Hunger is a very real problem for many people in our community and we are dedicated to making a difference by distributing all of the meals locally. One hundred thirty thousand meals were packaged in 2017, 160,000 were packaged in 2018, and we are excited about achieving the goal of 250,000 in 2019.” Every 3.6 seconds someone dies of malnutrition or starvation. In New York and New Jersey, one in five children relies on food stamps to provide daily meals.
Ellsworth Havens, the End Hunger program chair stated, “There are 1.2 million people in New Jersey who are ‘food insecure,’ which means they do not know where their next meal is coming from.”
He explains that this problem impacts education, work, health and all aspects of life. The cost per meal is approximately 25 cents. A contribution of $10.00 equals 40 meals; $100.00 equals 400 meals, $1,000 equals 4,000 meals.
Four years ago, the first End Hunger event took place at St. Vincent’s Church and involved 200 volunteers who packaged 53,000 meals. In the second year, the event moved to Drew University and 18 other rotary clubs joined the effort and 500 volunteers were involved. In the third year, 800 volunteers participated. On Saturday approximately 900 volunteers joined in at Drew’s Forum Center. There will be a second End Hunger event at Raritan Valley Community College in Branchburg on March 30, 12-6 p.m. The goal there will be to package 150,000 meals.
Among the food packaged were rice and beans, pasta with tomato sauce, rice, macaroni and cheese, and oatmeal. The food was purchased from third-party wholesalers and placed in packages, each containing six meals. The volunteers worked in two shifts throughout the day, each shift packaging approximately 100,000 meals. They occupied tables of 12-13 volunteers each. There were many repeat volunteers from year-to-year who brought friends and families to participate.
As Ellsworth Havens stated, “Watching hundreds of people working together and then leaving happy shows how communities can get together to solve problems.”
Volunteers at Drew’s Forum Center were registered and given hair nets and gloves. They were assigned to tables where the food to be packaged awaited them. Many of the volunteers were members of sports teams, corporate sponsors, staffs of recipient agencies, and members of the various participating Rotary Clubs. Several wore team tee shirts with messages promoting the mission to end hunger.
Thalia Garzon, Volunteer Coordinator of the Market Street Mission, a recipient, stated that she was taking eight packaged boxes to the mission, which provides 230 meals each day.
“The fact that all the meals go to residents of New Jersey emphasizes the need to take care of the people in our own backyards,” commented Madison Mayor Robert Conley.
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