MONTCLAIR, NJ - Montclair Township donated $20,000 to Toni’s Kitchen and will match up to an additional $20,000 in donations towards the local food ministry’s continued efforts providing meals to those in need during the COVID-19 shutdown. The amount has now been raised to $80,000, with the collaboration of three foundations.

Donations made directly to Toni’s Kitchen by May 31, 2020 will be matched dollar for dollar up to $80,000 and used to strengthen the availability of food in the local community. Toni’s Kitchen is a food ministry of St Luke’s Episcopal Church in Montclair, NJ.

Since the closure of schools and businesses due to the pandemic, there have been major disruptions throughout the community. Seniors are isolating, restaurant workers are unemployed, and families are suddenly without income. Toni’s Kitchen has responded by redesigning its work to meet rapidly growing food needs. To put the increased demand for food into perspective, in 2019 Toni’s Kitchen provided an average of 4,300 meals a week. Since March 2020, the number has grown to more than 12,000 meals each week. 

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Union Baptist Church has responded to the call-to-action and brought monetary and food donations to Toni's Kitchen on May 7. Pastor Campbell Singleton and church leaders have provided Toni's Kitchen with a $500 donation. 

During his visit, Executive Director Anne Mernin informed him that the donation would go to expand refrigeration and food for months ahead.

Singleton said that when he and his leadership visited Toni's Kitchen on May 7, they also hand delivered groceries to various families and provided words of encouragement.

He said, "We also gave boxes of groceries to Toni’s Kitchen and Mr. Floyd Slaten, chair of Trustee Ministry, and presented Ms. Anne Mernin, Executive Director of Toni’s Kitchen, with a check for $500."

Singleton added, "This awesome organization provides meals to elders, homeless and families seven days a week. We walked around the facility and saw this first class operation. They need volunteers, groceries and funds. Prayerfully consider supporting them especially disciples in Union."

Volunteers at Toni’s Kitchen have been working in shifts during the last several weeks cooking and packing thousands of meals for their regular patrons, packing food bags for hundreds of children and their families, and delivering groceries and prepared meals to hundreds of older residents.

Township officials announced last week that many businesses and organizations have also helped the Division of Senior Services/Lifelong Montclair with meals and food delivery for Montclair’s older residents. While the Division conducts outreach, signs up older residents, and assigns volunteers, the community has rallied with Toni’s Kitchen to make it all happen.

Antika Grill co-owners Fady Ghazal and George and Nancy Amir currently donate 360 meals per week for older residents.  

“Fady, George and Nancy reached out to us and have been unwavering in their commitment to contributing delicious meals during this crisis,” said Senior Services/Lifelong Montclair Director Dr. Katie York.

Rao’s/Sovos Foods, a relative newcomer to the community, this week donated 125 cases of products, totaling 360 jars of pasta sauce, 360 containers of pasta, and 390 cans of soup. Gelati by Mike is providing food donations and volunteering staff time and vehicles to help with deliveries.

Montclair Center Business Improvement District (BID) team members help collect donations and deliver food. The Kiwanis Club of Montclair has been building the volunteer base and training new volunteers, thanks largely to the efforts of the organization’s manager Peter Ebling.

Township Fire Chief John Herrmann and Second Ward Councilwoman Robin Schlager also volunteer their time to help with deliveries while Dr. York oversees the entire operation.

Three local funders have joined the Township of Montclair to address escalating food need during the COVID-19 pandemic. Partners for Health Foundation, The Schumann Fund for New Jersey, the Montclair Fund for Women and the Township have contributed a total of $80,000 to establish a pooled Matching Fund for Toni’s Kitchen.  

“This Matching Fund is a game-changer,” said Anne Mernin, Executive Director of Toni’s Kitchen. “Having resources to purchase food and cover our additional refrigeration needs is key. We know the year ahead will be challenging.”

Partners for Health Foundation contributed $30,000 to the Matching Fund. “We’re all stronger when we work together, and we hope the community responds generously to support our neighbors in need, when the need has never been greater,” said Pam Scott, Executive Director.

The Schumann Fund for New Jersey contributed $20,000. According to Annette Strickland, Executive Director, “The trustees of the Schumann Fund for New Jersey are proud to support this longstanding organization that has become a hub of social services in Montclair."   

Lori Heninger, Executive Director of the Montclair Fund for Women which donated $10,000, added, “Toni's Kitchen is doing an incredible job of ensuring that the most vulnerable in our community are able to meet a basic human need--that of food. The Board of Trustees is grateful that we can stand together with other local funders, the Township and individual donors.”

The Township of Montclair joined the funders with a contribution of $20,000, bringing the total the Township has given to support Toni’s Kitchen during this crisis to $60,000. Mayor Robert Jackson noted, "We're delighted to continue our support of Toni's Kitchen, particularly in partnership with such wonderful organizations along the way.  In a twist of the adage, we're pouring good money after good."

To donate to Toni’s Kitchen, go to www.toniskitchen.org.