The Million Meals Challenge provides support for food banks nationwide, and a regional landmark will be involved in the cause.
Beginning the last week of August and through the end of September, the entity that owns Deptford Mall — Macerich Properties — wants to help end food insecurity in the region by collecting food and financial support for the South Jersey Dream Center.
The five-week-long effort kicked off Aug. 24, with the goal of easing burdens on organizations as they struggle to keep ahead of challenges presented by the COVID-19 crisis.
“Macerich does care about communities across the country, and that’s why they’re doing something on this scale. On a local level, we’re being challenged to collect towards that goal,” revealed Lori Belsito, marketing manager of Deptford Mall.
“As a whole, the company has this goal of a million meals, and each property is picking a local charity instead of something national like the Red Cross. They’re choosing something where you’ll see a direct impact. And we can track how many meals the public contributes to that overall goal.”
The SJDC, located in West Deptford, is an outreach organization of Faith Fellowship Ministries, which tries to break the cycle of poverty by offering the dignity of self-sufficiency.
Drive-up donations of nonperishable foods (canned foods, holiday-specific foods, instant meals) will be collected on Sept. 12, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the mall’s parking lot on the south side of Deptford Center Road, near Red Robin.
“Their volunteers will be out there,” Belsito said. “There will be tables out in the parking lot. People can roll right up, pop their trunk, and volunteers will take food out of the truck (and) put it in their own box truck.
“I don’t know the specifics, but each family is given approximately seven-to-10 meals per week, and these families can visit the food bank location to receive the food.”
Food donations will be accepted at Center Court in the mall itself from Sept. 12 through Sept. 20.
“We kick this whole thing off on Sept. 12, with a local hometown heroes meet and greet, with social distancing and masking guidelines,” Belsito explained. “We will have a no-contact donation point there for canned goods, bags of food and however people want to give us their donations.”
Monetary donations will be accepted online until Sept, 30 at: https://www.southjerseydreamcenter.org/deptford-mall-virtual-food-drive.
Although the timing of the challenge might suggest a greater need that has to be addressed farther from the holiday season, Belsito said the challenge is necessary because of more immediate concerns.
“Actually, this is something we’d do anyway,” she related. “For the holidays, we’d normally do something like a toy drive. The charity we’re supporting recognizes that there’s a need year round.
“We have a lot of families that do need lunches, with back-to-school around the corner and a large amount of students who are doing remote learning and wouldn’t get those meals in school,” Belsito added.
“The need is definitely right now.”
Belsito urges anyone who can’t make it to the mall but wants to donate, to utilize the website’s donation page and pick either a specific amount of meals or an appropriate financial amount to send to the food bank.
For more information on the challenge, visit: https://www.deptfordmall.com/events/millionmealschallenge.
For more information on the SJDC, visit: https://www.southjerseydreamcenter.org/about.