It’s that time of the year when we stuff ourselves silly and buy to excess. You’re probably already doing things to help those less fortunate. But I wanted to share our experience with the Community FoodBank of New Jersey (CFBNJ).
I brought my kids to the CFBNJ when my college alumni group organized a volunteer session this month. It was a really interesting experience. Here’s what we learned.
-1.1 million people in New Jersey are food insecure. Many of these are kids. The food bank helps many families out by filling kids’ backpacks with food that the family can eat each week.
-This food bank was started by a mom in Summit NJ, who operated it out of her car. It’s now a huge organization which serves many agencies, providing food and supplies for their clients.
The CFBNJ has a Food Service Training Academy, where they train people to work in the food service industry. These people are in need of a fresh start, according to CFBNJ, and some of them come from prison backgrounds, giving them skills for work when it might be difficult otherwise to get those. The CFBNJ has kitchens and meeting rooms onsite to train them, and the academy students also do catering. About 90% of their graduates get jobs within six months.
The CFBNJ gives away more than food. They also give away clothing. Our volunteer job that morning was to sort through boxes of new clothing, from companies like American Girl, Gap, Babies R Us and Children’s Place. We oohed and aahed over the adorable outfits, that families in need will be able to come in and shop for – for free. Kudos to these companies for donating their excess inventory and letting it go to good use.
They also have some adult clothing, but we were working on the kids’ stuff.
Tools 4 Schools gives teachers free supplies to use in the classroom, and some of those go directly to the students themselves. The CFBNJ accepts donations of supplies and money, and gets supplies as well from some manufacturers.
What can you do to help?
Volunteer: They offer 2 hour group and individual shifts at the Hillside location. Kids must be at least 12. Volunteers do a variety of tasks, like packing up boxes, sorting clothing, assembling donation mailings etc. They offer shifts Mondays through Saturdays, including some evening hours. If going in winter, bring your coat inside. The warehouse isn’t heated, and it can get chilly. They have opportunities in Southern NJ as well, plus offsite options.
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Donate food: The food bank definitely takes food donations. But I read an interesting article that said not to donate food to food banks, because it’s inefficient. It takes too much time for them to sort through the food, and they could buy it much more cheaply than you can.
This is an excellent article about how food pantries and food banks work, how they get their food and funds, and what their needs are.
That said, I know that local food pantries that directly serve community members really welcome those food donations. With a smaller focus on direct service (instead of serving agencies), they can distribute those food items more easily than the large food banks can do.
Donate money: This is a huge need for the agency, which is current a couple million in debt. They have a matching program going on through 12/31 – dollar for dollar. They have a four star rating with Charity Navigator (a 90.72% score). 95.7% of funds raised go to their programs. Here’s where you can donate to the CFBNJ.
Other ways to help: There are a lot of ways you and your kids can help the food bank. That includes hosting your own fundraiser and using Amazon Smile to donate a portion of your purchases to the food bank (at no cost to you).