PLAINFIELD, NJ — One of the ripple effects of COVID-19 that is being felt in local communities is an increase in food insecurity due to sudden job losses and school closures. On Monday, several Plainfield non-profits benefited from a partnership between the Union County Freeholder Board, Sheriff Peter Corvelli and his team, the United Way of Greater Union County, and Amazon Logistics.

Plainfield’s Andre James of Maschio's Foods, who runs the district's school nutrition program that provides breakfast, lunch and snack bags to students who are learning from home, traveled to Elizabeth to pick up food that will benefit even more residents in need.

Monday’s delivery included pallets of fresh produce, dairy products, fresh meats and non-perishable items.  Members of the Union County Sheriff's Office were on hand to provide distribution assistance.

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Melanie McLaurin, United Way’s Director of Marketing and Community Engagement, said Amazon Logistics had been partnering with UWGUC prior to the pandemic, and the company reached out to see what was needed to address the food insecurity issue.

Juanita Ayala-Vargas, VP of Programs and Operations, said UWGUC has been experiencing an increase in calls for help, and the organization has been able to coordinate with Amazon Logistics to ease the burden for some families.

Andre James of Maschio's Foods (Facebook: @Dre James)

The first distribution occurred in Hillside a few weeks ago, and will continue on a weekly basis, until all Union County areas are covered. A total of 15 organizations were expected this day, with nine from Plainfield: the Plainfield Public School District, Angels for Action, Mount Olive Baptist Church, Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church, Salvation Army, Organization FEL, Casa de Gloria, and Central Hispanic Americano Organization.

RELATED: Feeding Plainfield Students During a School Shutdown

United Way of Greater Union County President and CEO James Horne, Jr. explained that Monday marked the fifth food distribution to community partners from several towns, from Summit to Linden, Roselle, Plainfield and Rahway.  “We currently have two dedicated drivers and a cost of $450 for each pickup from Amazon Logistics. We are looking to offset that cost” Horne mentioned.

Each Monday, once a site is designated and the estimated delivery time is confirmed, partner organizations are called and given a scheduled time for pickup. This process ensures that social distancing guidelines can be enforced. Organizations must contact Vargas to be on the list to coordinate the food pickup, and it is not open to the public. Towns typically provide volunteers to aid in the distribution.

Freeholder Sergio Granados stopped by to view the distribution in progress at the Elizabeth distribution site.. 

“Today’s effort builds on our longstanding, collaborative efforts with business leaders, nonprofits and local relief agencies. Thanks to Amazon and United Way, we are able to redouble our efforts to provide assistance to our residents during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis,” he said in a county press release.

To support the United Way's Emergency Fund, visit the website at uwguc.org/covid19.

Editor's Note: This article has been updated on 4/21 to note that the site was located in Elizabeth, NJ.

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