FBSJ’s goal is to feed 8,000 children enrolled in various community programs, summer schools, and church programs.
The Food Bank of South Jersey, the area’s largest hunger-relief organization, announced the start of their 2017 Summer Meals Program with plans to deliver a half million breakfasts, lunches, and snacks daily to low-income children from mid-June through September 1.
FBSJ’s goal is to feed 8,000 children enrolled in various community programs, summer schools, and church programs at 168 sites in Camden, Burlington, Gloucester and Salem counties. The New Jersey Department of Agriculture reports that nearly 430,000 children in the state receive free and/or reduced price meals during the school year through the National School Lunch Program, but in 2016 less than 20 percent of those kids were able to access nutritious meals during the summer months.
“An intrinsic part of our mission is ensuring that no child is going home hungry at any time of the year,” states FBSJ President and CEO Val Traore. “We recognize that when the bell sounds to dismiss school, and those children who rely on free or reduced school meal programs are left without these critical resources, that signals our cue to roll up our sleeves and get to work.”
For those children who may not have a dedicated place to eat during the SMP program, FBSJ will deploy the Bus Stop Café in Salem County in which the organization’s mobile school bus pantry will bring meals to children and allow them to eat on the bus if needed. Thanks to a generous donation of over 6,000 children’s books provided by First Book, a national nonprofit dedicated to supplying reading materials to low-income children and orchestrated by Dr. Beverly Richardson of Rutgers University, FBSJ will also deliver books at these locations to ensure that children will have the ability to nourish their minds while satisfying their hunger.
FBSJ will continue to function as a “self-prep” sponsor for its SMP, procuring food directly from wholesalers such as Seashore Fruit & Produce and Hy-Point Dairy Farms, and relying on the cooperation of volunteers and the expertise of staff to prep and pack an average of 5,000 meals daily delivering them to participating sites on time each day. The organization will continue to rely on the support of various community partners including Virtua Health who will provide free use of commercial kitchen space in Camden serving as an additional food preparation hub for FBSJ and Bentley Truck Services, who will be lending two 18-foot box trucks required for successful delivery routes.
FBSJ will launch its 2017 Summer Meals Program with a kick-off event on Wednesday, June 21 at Wiggins Park in Camden, from noon until 2 pm. Approximately 250 children from participating SMP sites will be on hand to enjoy games, music, face painting and lunch. Speakers will include representatives from the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, United States Department of Agriculture, and FBSJ’s President and CEO Val Traore.