(EAST ORANGE & ORANGE, NJ) - As the health and economic toll of the COVID-19 crisis began to hit our area, the Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges stepped in to increase food access for people struggling with job loss and other hardships during the pandemic. By teaming with local businesses and agencies, the Metro YMCAs have been able to distribute approximately 158,000 pounds of food, providing relief for more than 7,000 families since April.
YMCA parking lots have become food distribution sites, empty gyms and offices storage areas, and fitness instructors, camp directors, and other Y staff have donned masks and gloves to help load boxes of food into vehicles lined up for contact-less pickup. Along with staff, local volunteers have also given more than 200 hours to assist with distribution.
"Even in these unprecedented times, the Y's mission of supporting children and families in our communities remains strong. With the backing of our community partners, food distributors, staff, and volunteers, we continue to provide relief for those who are experiencing the physical, mental, and financial effects of the pandemic," said Richard K. Gorab, President and CEO of the Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges.
The Metro YMCAs partnered with Seashore Produce and Fruit Co. in Vineland to distribute thousands of boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables across six Y locations. Each box is intended to nourish a family of four for about a week. Seashore was awarded a contract from the USDA to participate in the Farmers to Families Food Box program, and has been delivering around 1,000 food boxes a week to Metro Y branches since May.
“We are grateful to be in this position to do something about food insecurity during this time. We certainly do not do it alone. Our partnerships with non-profit organizations are crucial. We appreciate the outstanding job the Y has done to help get these boxes into the hands of those who need it,” Elizabeth Gregor, Marketing Manager for Seashore Fruit & Produce Co., told the Y.
The Metro Ys have also partnered with the Community FoodBank of New Jersey based in Hillside, to provide boxes of supplemental food items to individuals in and families most in need, including those in communities served by the East Orange, Greater Bergen, Wayne, and West Essex Ys. The Wayne YMCA joined forces with the CFBNJ, Table to Table, Seashore, and other local agencies in the Wayne community to provide food security to children and families struggling to make ends meet. The Wayne Y alone has given out 2,182 boxes of food, or 58,825 pounds, through its Wayne United collaborative, and the Wayne Y has also been running its weekly Farmers Market, providing contact-less food pick-up options for area residents.
With the help of Seashore and the CFBNJ, the West Essex Y has been able to provide food for a growing number of seniors and low income families in Livingston, Orange, and West Orange through community partners like Livingston’s Neighbors Helping Neighbors, and through the Y’s LaVida Deliciosa program and community garden in West Orange. The Y also provided produce to residents at the nearby Inglemoor senior care center in Livingston.
Metro Ys will also continue to distribute food to those in need throughout the summer. These branches are offering contactless pickup in July and August, on a first come, first served basis:
East Orange YMCA - Pick up at East Orange Office of Emergency Management, 402 Springdale Ave. - Wednesdays at 12 p.m.
Fairview Lake YMCA Camps, 1035 Fairview Lake Rd., Stillwater - Tuesdays, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Greater Bergen County YMCA - 360 Main St., Hackensack - Tuesdays (time varies depending on delivery of food)
Residents can also contact their local Y branch for questions about food distribution in their community.
Strength of Community
The Metro YMCAs continue to provide outreach to the community during the COVID-19 crisis through blood drives, virtual wellness and enrichment programming, employee assistance, and more. Visit metroymcas.org to learn more about our initiatives and how you can help us to raise $250,000 toward our Strength of Community campaign goal.
The Y has begun to reopen its facilities for programs as allowed by the state, including child care, summer day camp, outdoor fitness, personal training, and swimming. However, indoor gym spaces remain closed except for personal training.
ABOUT THE Y
Established in 1885, the Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges invests in its diverse communities to promote wellness, safety and quality of life for children, adults and seniors. Its seven branches in East Orange, Livingston, Maplewood, Hackensack, Hardyston, Stillwater and Wayne are committed to nurturing the potential of kids, promoting healthy living and fostering a sense of social responsibility through an array of programs. Some 35,000 people belong to the Metro Y, which awards more than $2.8 million annually in direct and indirect financial assistance.
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