FRANKLIN, NJ – For the past 45 years, the Franklin Food Bank has relied on monetary donations and fundraising initiatives to fulfill its mission to help hundreds of township residents in need.

Due to COIVD-19, more and more families are turning to the food bank for assistance but, at the same time, the healthcare crisis led to the cancellation of the non-profit’s two major fundraising efforts.

“This year, because of the pandemic, we lost our fundraiser Empty Bowls, which would have taken place in March, and the Tour de Franklin, which was scheduled for the end of May,” said Mike Rossi, director of development for the Franklin Food Bank. “Between the two of them, that is almost $100,000 in lost revenue.”

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Although a bit different than in previous years, technology played a hand in ensuring that the Delaware & Raritan Canal Festival (CanalFest), a fundraising effort to support ‘food justice through music’ and benefit the Franklin Food Bank, still took place. Held annually since 2011, CanalFest is, typically, an open-air festival featuring arts and crafts, food vendors and musical performances.

While the one-day event could not physically take place this year, organizers moved to an entirely virtual format featuring a live performance from a different act/artist every evening in June.

Read: A Franklin Food Bank CanalFest 2018 Photo Gallery

“CanalFest has long been a point of pride and connection for Franklin Township. Year-after-year it has reflected our community's vibrancy,” said Franklin resident Michael Steinbruck, a former member of the Franklin Food Bank Board of Trustees and founder of Iguana Music & Sound, whose musician collective coordinates CanalFest. “Refusing to let this pandemic end it now makes it a shining symbol of our resilience. The virus tried to take one day away from us... so we took 30 days back.”

At 7 p.m. each night from June 1 through June 30, a different performance took place live on the Iguana Music Concerts public Facebook page (https://bit.ly/3gpvMlt). Performances, which independent hip-hop recording and performing artist Jason Fraticelli, better known by his stage name ‘Silent Knight’ or “SK,” helped book, covered all genres, including but not limited to, R&B, hip-hop, folk, alternative, classical, jazz, and more.

Additionally, Frank Bridges, a DJ with WRSU – Rutgers University volunteered his time every evening throughout June to host the ‘Luke Warm-Up’ show before each performance.

 “This series is community-inspired and community-run. It has served to uplift musicians and music fans alike while supporting our neighbors in need,” said Steinbruck, adding, “That is the best medicine I can think of given our current situation.”

“The world has become an insane place in the past several months with live music becoming basically impossible, and people needing help more than ever,” said Piscataway resident Adam Dickinson, singer/guitarist with the band A Halo Called Fred. “CanalFest was a wonderful opportunity to play, reconnect with our audience, and help out those in need at the same time.”

Throughout the performances, information, including a direct donation link to benefit the Franklin Food Bank, was posted.

As of press time, the month-long CanalFest raised over $2,000. Anyone looking to contribute can still do so by visiting:

https://connect.clickandpledge.com/Organization/franklinfoodbank/campaign/IguanaMusicFoodDrive.

“We are extremely thankful to Mike Steinbruck and all the performers and artists who went out of their way to take part in a month-long event specifically dedicated to raising money and awareness for the food bank, especially during this time of great need,” said Rossi. “Events such as virtual CanalFest and the efforts everyone who was involved went through to raise money for the food bank are irreplaceable.”

Throughout the year, the Franklin Food Bank relies heavily on donations from supermarkets, membership clubs such as Costco and BJs, and other retailers to stock its shelves. “We rely on them to donate food to us but their shelves, especially in the beginning, were basically empty and they didn’t have any food either so a lot of our money went to purchase food,” Rossi said. “Every dollar raised is so important right now.”

Due to the current healthcare crisis, the Franklin Food Bank, located at 224 Churchill Avenue, Somerset, has revised its program and is giving a fixed bag to township residents in need. An appointment is necessary and can be made by calling (732) 246-0009; please leave a message with your name and phone so that someone can call back and schedule an appointment.

For more information on the Franklin Food Bank, visit https://franklinfoodbank.org or follow them on Facebook (New Franklin Food Bank) at https://www.facebook.com/FranklinFoodBank224/?epa=SEARCH_BOX. To make a monetary donation to the food bank, visit https://bit.ly/2YUtchJ or https://bit.ly/2VFzuzv.

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