Every year, thousands of kids along with their parents and guardians get nervous about getting ready for another school year. Not because of school itself, but because they may not have the money needed to fulfill their supplies lists, get clothes that fit for the next year or even be able to afford a healthy breakfast every day. With the economy the way it’s been for the last few years, there are more families in this situation then ever.
The Community Foodbank of New Jersey has some really cool programs that I’ve helped with in past years. I thought I’d use this Back to School season to get you guys involved, too!
Before I get into the kids programs, here’s a little history of the Community Foodbank skimmed their website. The Community FoodBank of New Jersey began when Kathleen DiChiara began distributing groceries out of the trunk of her car in 1975. The first year, eventually operating from the fourth floor of the Mount Carmel Guild building in Newark, the Community FoodBank distributed nearly 2 million pounds of groceries. In 1982, the FoodBank was incorporated and moved up to an unheated former meat-packing plant in Newark’s Ironbound district. The FoodBank’s distribution of food to charities throughout the state steadily grew, and in 1987 moved its location to a larger warehouse, a 43,000-foot warehouse with enough freezer and refrigerator space to accommodate more frozen foods, meats, milk, and fresh fruits and vegetables. In 1993 continued support and program growth led the FoodBank to its current 280,000 square-foot facility in Hillside, New Jersey. Today, they distribute 37 million pounds of food and groceries a year, ultimately serving 1,500 non-profit programs including 436 programs served by its Partner Distribution Organizations. Through their combined efforts, they assist 900,000 low-income people in 18 of New Jersey’s 21 counties.
There are four programs that comprise the Kids Division in the Foodbank: Tools 4 Schools, Kids Closet, Kids Cafe and the BackPack Program. In years past, I’ve helped out organizing the Tools 4 Schools and Kids Closet and they’re both very cool. The Kids Closet program allow disadvantaged families come in and “shop” for new items for school. It is designed to help the kids feel good about themselves and give the parents some dignity when they come to the realization that they need charitable help. Tools 4 Schools is a place where teachers from poorer communities can come and pick up classroom supplies that have been donated. Generally, these teachers end up going without things like chalk, paper and pencils because unless they buy the items themselves, the students don’t have the means to buy the stuff themselves.
The other two programs are the BackPack Program which gives kids a backpack filled with food for the weekend. Some kids’ food comes mainly from schools’ breakfast and lunch offerings and they can go hungry over the weekend. The BackPack Program helps them through those tough weekend days when there’s no school food to get by on. The last program is the Kids Cafe which sets up meal programs in community centers around the state. In exchange for the meals, the community center agrees to become a safe haven for kids who don’t have a safe place to go after school.
I love volunteering with the Community Foodbank of New Jersey and I hope that you’ve been inspired to do something to help their mission today. Even just donating a few dollars at the grocery store can help a family eat a nice hot meal tonight. You know you’ve seen those little donation slips at the registers. Go ahead and add $3 to your grocery bill. Or, if you’re feeling more inspired or can’t give money, they have opportunities to volunteer time and labor, too. Just two hours of volunteering will make you feel like a million dollars. I promise!
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