City Coalition Seeking Long-Term Solutions To Hunger

Elijah's Promise Soup Kitchen
Lisanne Finston, Executive Director of Elijah's Promise Soup Kitchen

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Since the founding of Elijah’s Promise soup kitchen in 1989, Executive Director Lisanne Finston has seen the numbers of the hungry ebb and flow with the economy.

She’s also found that merely feeding those in need is not enough to end hunger or to fully nurture body and spirit.

To that end, she is working with corporate and city partners to develop a sustainable “food policy” aimed at replacing junk food with fresh produce, sprouting green gardens throughout the city, reducing diet-related maladies and feeding local employment growth.

Sign Up for E-News

A coalition that began meeting late last year and includes Elijah’s Promise, Johnson & Johnson, the New Brunswick Development Corp. (Devco), the city and other civic groups will hold a Community Food Alliance Forum at Sacred Heart Church on Monday, May 16.

The partners are looking for city residents willing to play a leadership role to serve as facilitators for the evening of round-table discussions aimed at determining community needs.

Training for facilitators will be held Monday, May 2, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., at Sacred Heart, 56 Troop Ave. Bi-lingual residents are encouraged to get involved.

Since the economic recession hit in 2008, Elijah’s Promise has seen a 10 percent hike in those being fed at the soup kitchen, and now serves about 110,000 meals annually.

“This has been a recession that does not discriminate,” Finston said, noting that among those being fed are the newly-unemployed, others curtailing food purchases at home in order to stave off foreclosure, and new immigrants.

She said those defined by the federal Dept. of Agriculture as “food insecure” are forced to curtail meals to afford rent and utilities, or are unable to purchase fresh food and produce to cook at home, opting instead for cheaper fast-food alternatives, and sometimes skipping meals.

Because the challenges of those without enough to eat are not necessarily tied to homelessness, food insecurity “is subtle, it’s masked, it’s not in your face,” Finston said.

The partners in the food alliance are seeking long-term solutions that go beyond the food-pantry tradition of collecting and redistributing food donations and soup kitchen service.

Another problem is “food waste management,” which Finston described as the donation of such junk food as sodas and sweetened drinks, sugary desserts, and high-carb fillers like pasta for meals served at soup kitchens or given away at pantries.

Such charity often contributes to health problems, feeding growing incidents of obesity, diabetes and hypertension, Finston said.

Thus the alliance hopes to encourage the development of low-cost food co-ops, community gardens and education on healthy eating habits.

The group also wants to ensure that all children attending city schools take advantage of free breakfast and lunch programs and that all families who are eligible join the food stamp program.

“We’ve got some places in New Brunswick that could be considered food deserts,” Finston said, noting the scarcity of affordable grocery stores in many neighborhoods.

The city is taking steps to address that problem with a deal for opening a downtown grocer late next year.

 Among those working with the food alliance is Jean Holtz, vice president of communications for Devco, a partner in the effort. The development firm is behind plans for the Fresh Grocer, to be part of the downtown Wellness Plaza, for which ground was recently broken.

“We’re a small city with a lot of resources,” Holtz said.

Next month’s forum will be the third held by the alliance, which in December held the first food forum at New Brunswick High School, followed by Partnership for Healthy Kids New Brunswick’s session on childhood obesity.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

New Brunswick

The Jaffe Briefing - February 22, 2018


TRENTON - If New Jersey raises the sales tax back to 7 percent, will anyone notice? That's the big question from New Jersey Policy Perspective, which questions last year's gimmick that cut the sales tax rate to 6.625 percent. NJ 101.5reports that tax cut equates to $2 a week in "savings" for middle-class families. Meanwhile, this ...

The Jaffe Briefing - February 21, 2018


ON THE HIGHWAY - Authorities were frantically looking into a "mystery tar" that appeared suddenly on cars driving along I-295 in South Jersey, causing tires to gel with the road. They quickly realized that a stretch of the highway in Salem County was smeared with liquid asphalt, leaked from a tanker and causing dozens of cars to get ...

The Jaffe Briefing - February 20, 2018


STATEWIDE - Jittery parents are sending their jittery kids to jittery schools this morning, as classes resume after a President's Day weekend filled with wall-to-wall news coverage about gun safety. School districts statewide have been reporting threats - all thankfully not credible - as district leaders are on the highest alert. East Brunswick, for ...

The Jaffe Briefing - February 16, 2018


E STREET - While a tired nation is demanding gun control (yet again), Springsteen guitarist Stevie Van Zandt is having none of it. No stranger to political opinions, the New Jersey icon tweeted "What happened to us? We are averaging 2 school shootings per week AND WE DO NOTHING ABOUT IT!" Many tone-deaf politicians on Capitol Hill ...

The Jaffe Briefing - January 15, 2018


TRENTON - As state lawmakers are set to announce a bill at 11 a.m. to decriminalize pot - an issue that has consumed the Statehouse -  the Record is reporting on an often-ignored issue: the state's ridiculously antiquated liquor laws. For example, supermarkets in the state can only have up to two liquor licenses, stemming ...

The Jaffe Briefing - February 14, 2018


ON AIR - Gov. Phil Murphy had his very first "Ask the Governor" monthly program last night. He appeared on News 12 New Jersey to field your questions about all things New Jersey. Impossible to recap an hour segment. Of course, we will try: New Jersey should be a better place to retire. The state pension mess will be solved.

Trees Have Sex? Rutgers Researchers Have All the Answers

February 22, 2018

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - A few years ago, Rutgers researcher Jennifer Blake-Mahmud was working on a botany project in Virginia when colleagues pointed out a striped maple, a common tree in the understory of mountain forests from Nova Scotia to Georgia. 


“They told me, ‘We think it switches sex from year to year, but we don’t know why,’ and I said, ...

Rutgers Union Rally Planned Friday for $15 Minimum Wage

New Brunswick, NJ - On Friday, February 23, student groups, a coalition of Rutgers unions, and representatives from campuses across the nation will hold a rally and march on College Avenue to demand a $15 minimum wage.

The action, initiated by the Rutgers chapter of United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) and the Rutgers American Association of University Professors - American Federation of ...

RU Students Rejoice: Starbucks Reopens at The Yard@College Avenue

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - In what many consider to be the biggest news of the day on the Rutgers University campus, the Starbucks at The Yard@College Avenue has once again reopened.

Officials with the New Brunswick Development Corp. reported this morning that the popular coffeehouse is open "for good."

The Starbucks at The Yard@College Avenue, located at the corner of College ...

Valeski: Placing Police Officers in Schools was Planned for Two Years

February 21, 2018

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - In the midst of a media firestorm Tuesday, Dr. Victor Valeski, East Brunswick Superintendent of Schools, fielded questions from local and national journalists regarding the placement of armed police officers inside each of the district's K-12 buildings.  The move seemed to many as a "knee-jerk" reaction to the fear generated by the massacre of ...

Shouts of Racial Slurs Bring Police to Sparta Theatre

February 21, 2018

SPARTA, NJ – Sparta police were called to the New Vision Sparta Theater on Sunday night because of a woman shouting slurs in a screening of Black Panther.

Former New Jersey Assembly candidate Michael Grace was in the theater when two people started yelling racial slurs including “look at these ‘n-word’” and “can you believe these ...


Letter to the Editor: Low-Income Families Who Need Safe Cribs Have Nowhere to Go

February 15, 2018

One recent email came from a pastor in East Orange, sharing the struggles of a young couple who have no safe place for their baby to sleep.

Then, there was also a phone call from a Newark hospital, making its fourth request in two years, as well as a frantic text from Puerto Rico, for a family who lost everything in the hurricane.

They all pleaded for the same thing: A safe crib for a ...

Somerset Patriots Sign Frontier League All-Star RHP Randy McCurry

February 17, 2018

The Somerset Patriots have announced the signing of right-handed relief pitcher Randy McCurry for the 2018 season.

“I’m excited to play in the Atlantic League this year,” said McCurry. “It’ll be a transition for me but I am ready to face some really good competition and help the team win.”

McCurry enters his first season with the Somerset Patriots and ...