Photo Credit: facebook.com/FoodstockNJ
Foodstock NJ is an idea born out of a Senior project in 2009. Maura Swisher was attending St. John Vianney High School in Freehold. Her family has a long history of working and volunteering at the local food pantry.
They organized a neighborhood food drive once in their backyard, collecting one ton of supplies to stock the empty shelves for those in need one day.
The initial version of Foodstock was called A Ton of Fun. The Swishers had live music and a carnival theme, including midway games for people to enjoy. It was such a success that the family decided to host a similar event the following year, which led to 6,000 pounds of food being donated to local pantries.
That’s when Foodstock became an annual tradition. It’s now branded as “Peace, Love, and Food” in homage to the Woodstock festival held in New York in 1969.
By 2015, Foodstock Had to Relocate to a Bigger Venue
As word about Foodstock continued to spread along the East Coast, more people began attending the event each year. The Swishers had to move it from their backyard to the Colts Neck Firehouse in 2015 because so many people planned to be there, have fun, and donate food.
In 2016, Foodstock NJ settled into its current home, which is the Freehold Fire Company #1 on Stillwells Corner Road.
“More than 1.1 million people in New Jersey are food insecure,” said Robert Swisher, who serves as President of Foodstock NJ. “That includes over 400,000 kids. That’s why our mission has two simple focus points. We facilitate the movement of food from those who are more fortunate to those with fewer resources, then encourage and inspire future generations to do the same.” []
Foodstock NJ is a tax-exempt non-profit organization with 501(c)(3) status in the United States.
Instead of hosting one event each year, the Swishers work throughout the community to host food drives each fall in various locations. You can find Foodstock efforts at schools, churches, and many local businesses. Once the food is collected and weighed, it’s sent to various food pantries to help those in need.
Food Insecurity Challenges Continue After the Pandemic
Non-profit organizations in NJ and throughout the United States had increases in volunteerism requests, with more than 85% requiring extra help to meet demands.
Several local companies and branch locations have stepped up to help Foodstock NJ and others to meet these needs, including Northwestern Mutual.
Bette Lubas is the Director of Recruiting in Wall Township for Northwestern Mutual. She was chosen to receive a $15,000 grant from her employer, with the funds directed to Foodstock NH. []
Lubas joined Foodstock from the very beginning, recruiting others to help positively impact the lives of others locally. She spearheads many of the organization's food drives and distribution logistics while serving as the co-chair for its annual fundraising events.
“I believe no one should ever go hungry, especially right here in our community,” said Lubas. Grant money and direct donations allow Foodstock NJ to provide supplies directly to the people and pantries that need them the most.
Foodstock NJ operates on a budget of approximately $150,000 per year. []
How to Help Local Food Pantries
After a long and stressful day, sitting down to have a meal with your family feels good. Unfortunately, that option isn't available for millions of Americans and billions more worldwide. Thankfully, each person has the power to start making a difference in global hunger.
It starts when we each support our local food banks and pantries.
Although each community might operate a little differently, each food bank and pantry has three specific needs: money, food, and time. That means the best ways to offer support are to donate food, donate cash, or become a volunteer.
Food banks and pantries have incredible buying power because they make bulk purchases of items that don’t always move well at local stores. It’s not unusual for the average per-meal price of these organizations to be $0.25 or less.
That means your local food bank can offer an entire family of five a meal for $1.25 or less.
The best options for donating food are shelf-stable proteins like nut butters and canned meats. Low-sodium products, including vegetables and soups, are also in high demand. Most facilities offer baby food, diapers, cleaning supplies, hygiene items, and paper products.
Think about nutrition first when shopping for donations. If you’re in the NJ area, you can send those items to Foodstock to help them reach two million pounds of donated items.
[] http://foodstocknj.org/about-us/foodstock-introduction/; [] https://centraljersey.com/2021/04/16/local-northwestern-mutual-director-donates-15000-grant-to-foodstock-nj/; [] https://www.causeiq.com/organizations/foodstock-nj,611719633/