HACKENSACK, NJ - The Greater Bergen County YMCA has long played a vital role in meeting the community’s health, wellness, and child care needs. When the novel coronavirus hit the area, the Y responded by providing access to a basic need that has rapidly increased during the crisis: the need for food. 

The Greater Bergen Y has distributed approximately 110,000 lbs of food, or about 55 tons, since May. That amount equals nearly 90,000 meals served to the local community. 

“During this unprecedented crisis, we are fortunate to have been able to support our community in a number of ways, including being a resource for residents who are struggling with food insecurity,” said Glenn MacAfee, Executive Director of the Greater Bergen County Y. 

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The Y serves an average of 130-140 families each week, providing boxes of healthy produce and other shelf-stable items in a contactless, “drive-up” format, with recipients coming to the Y’s parking lot each Tuesday to obtain the boxes. Each family receives about 50-60 pounds of food each week, and many families also share the food with neighbors and friends, expanding the Y’s reach well beyond the initial recipients. 

With support from the NJ YMCA State Alliance, the Y has partnered with food distributors and suppliers across the state, including Table to Table, Seashore Fruit & Produce Co., and the Community FoodBank of NJ, to get boxes of fruits and vegetables and nonperishable items into the hands of local residents.  

Seashore Fruit & Produce of Vineland was awarded a contract from the USDA to participate in the Farmers to Families Food Box Program, delivering boxes of fruits and vegetables each week to schools and organizations to distribute locally. Each box of food is intended to serve a family of four for about a week.  

“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 partnership with non-profit organizations are crucial,” Elizabeth Gregor, Marketing Manager for Seashore Fruit & Produce Co., told the Y. ”We appreciate the outstanding job the Y has done to help get these boxes into the hands of those who need it.” 

According to the Community FoodBank of New Jersey in Hillside, Feeding America projects a 56 percent increase in food insecurity in New Jersey due to COVID-19. This means a total of 1.2 million residents will not have the financial means to access food for a healthy, active lifestyle. The CFBNJ has provided more than 40 million nutritious meals in 2020 with the help of community partners.

"The Community FoodBank of New Jersey is grateful for the Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges and all of our partners across the state, whose tireless efforts are the driving force behind our response to the COVID-19 pandemic," said Carlos Rodriguez, President & CEO of the Community FoodBank of New Jersey. "Together, we form a network of vital support for our neighbors in need, whether they were struggling prior to this crisis or are finding themselves in need for the first time in their lives."

Table to Table, based in Hasbrouck Heights, collects prepared and perishable food that would otherwise be wasted and delivers it to organizations serving the hungry in Bergen, Essex, Hudson, and Passaic counties.

“We are so thankful for the partnership with the YMCA Alliance. Because of the Meadowlands and Hackensack YMCA, we were able to expand our reach with healthy, beautiful, fresh food into Bergen County at a time when they needed us most,” said Julie Kinner, Director of Recipient Relations and Community Affairs at Table to Table.

To assist the Y, Westy Self Storage has lent supplies including boxes and carts for organizing and transporting the food.

“The Greater Bergen YMCA has provided so much to so many in need,” said Tim Mincin, District Director of Westy Self Storage, Hackensack. “It has been very gratifying to be part of the solution for this wonderful project.”

When the coronavirus struck New Jersey, with the Hackensack area as the epicenter of the outbreak, the Greater Bergen Y and its six sister branches were forced to temporarily close. Despite a significant cut in revenue and loss of staff due to furloughs, the Greater Bergen Y joined the pandemic response alongside other Ys in its association and across the state to provide emergency food boxes as the need quickly grew. To date, the Metro Y Association has distributed more than 20,000 boxes and 350,000 meals across six locations in Bergen, Essex, Passaic, and Sussex counties, working with at least 20 community partners. 

The Greater Bergen Y has also assisted the Carroll Family of Hackensack and their work to provide food for families in the local school district. Some families who were served by the Carrolll Family are now receiving food directly from the Y.

About three volunteers have given a collective 250 hours of their time to help with the food distribution at the Greater Bergen Y. Visions Federal Credit Union supported the efforts with a $3,000 grant. 

“Without the support of our community, staff, and volunteers, we would not be able to make the impact we’ve made in a short time. We have no intention of stopping as long as our partners are able to provide the food and space is available,” MacAfee said.

Strength of Community

The Metro YMCAs continue to provide outreach to the community during the COVID-19 crisis through blood drives, food distribution, virtual wellness and learning programs, employee assistance, and more. Visit metroymcas.org to learn more about our initiatives and how you can support the Y’s Strength of Community fundraising goal.

The Y has reopened its facilities and programs as allowed by the state, including child care, indoor and outdoor fitness, personal training, and swimming.  

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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.

ABOUT CFBNJ

With locations in Hillside in Union County and Egg Harbor Township in Atlantic County, CFBNJ works with a network of over 1,000 partner agencies to serve 15 of New Jersey's 21 counties, which also include Bergen, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Morris, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, and Warren counties; The Food Bank of South Jersey is in Pennsauken in Camden County and also serves Burlington, Gloucester, and Salem counties; Mercer Street Friends is in Ewing in Mercer County and Norwescap is located in Phillipsburg in Warren County and also serves Hunterdon, Morris, Somerset, and Sussex counties. 

ABOUT SEASHORE PRODUCE & CO.

Seashore Fruit and Produce Company is the region’s leading distributor of fresh fruit, produce, and dairy serving the tri-state area. Seashore provides unparalleled quality, commitment to service, and competitive pricing. Seashore services a diverse customer base, which consists of: K-12 schools, colleges and universities, healthcare and senior living facilities, business and industry locations, national chain restaurants, independently-owned restaurants, casinos, country clubs, and theme parks.

ABOUT TABLE TO TABLE

Table to Table is a community-based, not-for-profit, food rescue program that collects fresh and perishable food which would otherwise be wasted and delivers it to organizations that serve hungry people in Bergen, Hudson, Essex and Passaic counties in Northeastern NJ. With a fleet of refrigerated trucks, perishable food is picked up from more than 150 donors (restaurants, supermarkets, food distributors and hospital/corporate cafeterias), and then delivered to 250+ community partners. These partners include soup kitchens, homeless shelters, elder care facilities, day care centers, homes for victims and children of domestic violence, after-school programs and pantries serving the working poor. Food is delivered on the day of donation and is provided free of charge. Without any government assistance, Table to Table raises its own funds every year, and last year delivered enough food for more than 26 million meals.  

ABOUT WESTY SELF STORAGE

Westy offers affordable state-of-the-art storage solutions for individuals and businesses. Westy was founded in 1990 and since then the superior quality of their buildings has revolutionized the self storage industry. Among Westy’s family of customers are homeowners, apartment dwellers, professionals, businesses, retailers, and people who consider their Westy room an extension of their home or office. With corporate headquarters in Stamford, CT, Westy spans the tri-state area with 14 centers; 7 centers in NY, 4 centers in CT and 3 centers in NJ.