Giving Back

Westfield Volunteers Help Feed NJ’s Hungry This Thanksgiving

Westfield High School students who collected thousands of pounds of food with some of their parents, members of the Westfield Rotary Club and Laura Sodano of the Community FoodBank of New Jersey. Credits: Jackie Lieberman
Food donated by the Rotary Club of Westfield will help hungry people Thanksgiving weekend. Credits: Jackie Lieberman

WESTFIELD, NJ — Laura Sodano, hunger action coordinator for the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, was the guest speaker at the Rotary Club of Westfield’s pre-Thanksgiving lunch Tuesday.

The Westfield Rotary participates in the food bank’s “Backpack Program,” which benefits families who suffer food insecurity. Each week, Rotary provides a backpack’s worth of non-perishable, kid-friendly food to eight anonymous schoolchildren in Westfield. The children take these home to their families, which ensures that they will have enough to get through the weekend, when there is no school lunch. This week, the club packed special Thanksgiving bags for the long weekend.

Although Westfield is considered an affluent town, Sodano noted, “Hunger knows no zip code.”

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“We don’t have too many students in Westfield schools who don’t have enough food, but we have some, and one is too many,” said Westfield Superintendent of Schools Dr. Margaret Dolan.

In addition to the backpack program, food donated by members of the Rotary Club goes to the Holy Trinity Food Pantry in Westfield and the Community FoodBank.

Other special guests Tuesday included a group of Westfield High School sophomores who worked together recently to collect 1,934 pounds of food for Community FoodBank: Mark Kostyack, Cole Feltman, Jack Liebling, Chris Ng, Aidan Paul, Kevin Tsui and Jacob Davis. It was enough to feed one person for a year, or one family for a season, said Rick Liebling, Jack Liebling's father.

These same students collected 1,168 pounds of food last year.

“They literally put out bags and notes on doorsteps throughout Westfield,” said Liebling. They boys also went to stores asking for donations and took at tour of the Community FoodBank.

“I was really happy to see him and his friends commit to something like this," said Liebling.

About 22,000 children in Union County don’t know if they’ll have a meal each night, Sodano told the club. And now the Community FoodBank is dealing with the closings of casinos in Atlantic City—what Sodano called “double whammy” of people losing their jobs and casinos no longer donating food.

In addition to food, the Community FoodBank gets school supplies and clothing to kids in need and trains people for jobs in the foodservice industry. Find out more at

The Westfield Rotary meets for lunch every Tuesday at 12:15 p.m. at the Westfield Area Y, 220 Clark Street. For more information, visit

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