A Need We Feed is on a mission to fight hunger, which is rapidly growing in their Ocean County, New Jersey community. Every week, their dedicated team ensures that over 900 meals reach those who need them most. Stop & Shop has supported this organization through the Community Bag and Bloomin’ 4 Good Programs.
Tell us about A Need We Feed.
Our mission is to provide freshly prepared meals purchased from small business restaurants to feed veterans, seniors, families and the homeless. We started in 2012 when Super Storm Sandy devastated this area, and we had a huge Thanksgiving meal for all the first responders.
As time went on, it became evident that there was generally a need for food in our area. Initially, we provided meals four times a year: Thanksgiving, Christmas, a summer barbecue, and Easter. And then, it grew into providing meals weekly during the school year to some of the children that were involved in after-school activities in one of our poorer schools.
And then, of course, came COVID and the explosion of people who couldn’t access food. We just switched gears and started working with the restaurants that initially had a surplus of food since so many were closed. They would cook meals, and then volunteers would pick up the meals and deliver them to a central location or to homes. We worked with senior centers, American Legions, Big Brothers Big Sisters families and schools. And it grew from there.
What services do you provide to the community?
People have gone back to work now, but our community has ongoing food insecurity. Yes, people are using food banks and pantries, which is wonderful, but it’s not enough, so we try to fill that gap for them. We’ve continued with our weekly meal, which we have on Wednesdays, and a group of volunteers delivers the meals to people’s homes.
Yes, people are using food banks and pantries, which is wonderful, but it’s not enough, so we try to fill that gap for them.
We are a young organization and very grassroots. Our board of directors is like no other. They get involved; they deliver meals if we’re in a pinch; they’re very hands-on. And then we have this fantastic group of volunteers who deliver meals, rain or shine. We also work with organizations that want to hold a food drive. That gives us additional items we can add to the weekly meals, such as snacks, crackers, fruit, and applesauce.
We’ve also connected with this amazing, sweet lady who has a little group that collects dish liquid and laundry detergent. So once a month, a volunteer will pick up what she has, and we’ll disperse it among our larger families on a rotating basis.
For the holidays, we go all out with the soup-to-nuts meals. Last year we were able to give our seniors a Christmas stocking with their meal, filled with things like crossword puzzles, socks, notepads and ChapStick. We had so much fun with that!
What sets you apart from other nonprofits in your community?
The biggest thing that sets us apart is that we support local small businesses in carrying out our mission. We purchase meals at a reduced cost from small business restaurants. And those small businesses are the lifeblood of our community. They always go above and beyond! We select restaurants on a rotating basis, so no one restaurant is overburdened because it’s a lot of meals, 120-150. They love it when they get picked!
We have also lent additional support to those in need in our community and small business restaurants through a grant from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA.) During the three phases of this grant, we have provided 900 or more meals a week. These meals are delivered in bulk to churches, senior centers, and organizations that support Veterans and the homeless.
What also sets us apart is that we bring the meals to the home rather than in a congregate setting. In our area, transportation is always a problem.
When it comes to our meals, we’re picky. We want a well-balanced meal: protein, starch, and vegetables. We don’t want it to be over-salted or over-sauced. And no hot dogs or fish sticks! And we want a hearty meal; some of our people will try to get two meals out of what we send, and our restaurants know that.
When it comes to our meals, we’re picky. We want a well-balanced meal: protein, starch, and vegetables.
Tell us a story that illustrates the good work of your organization.
We have a husband and wife receiving meals from us who are just the cutest couple. Recently we provided apples and oranges with our meals. She called to say that it was the most beautiful apple she ever saw! How can you not be touched? For someone to be so appreciative of an apple is something most of us wouldn’t think twice about.
We had another elderly person tell us she didn’t know where her next meal was coming from, and receiving the meal was such a blessing for her. Things were that dire for her.
What is your most outstanding achievement or contribution to the community?
I would have to say it’s that we have been able to sustain this program for as long as we have, especially with the board behind us and considering the costs. They’ve made it a priority that we keep this going; I could not imagine needing to call a hundred people and say, this is your last meal.
What do you want people to know about A Need We Feed?
We deliver meals, but we also deliver human connection. We have a lot of seniors and older veterans that we bring meals to, and sometimes our volunteer is the only person they talk to that day.
We also have a part-time independent contractor who touches bases with everyone on our client list on a regular basis, just so that we know how they’re doing. It helps us know what their needs are and if we need to connect them with any other resources.
I also want people to know that any donation that they make helps feed people which very well could be their next-door neighbor. You would be surprised at who is in need. So, no donation is too small. Any support that we can get from the community, we are so very grateful for.
I also want people to know that any donation that they make helps feed people which very well could be their next-door neighbor.
Come to our fundraisers! The more money we raise at our fundraisers, the more sponsors we get, and the more meals we can purchase. You can find our event schedule here.
How are you using the funds raised from the Stop & Shop Bloomin’ 4 Good and Community Bag Programs?
We’ll use the funds not only to purchase meals but also to provide fresh fruit and vegetables for our clients. We’ll also be able to add treats like individual puddings and apple sauce.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
In closing, I would like to say that we at A Need We Feed are so grateful for all the different programs Stop & Shop offers. They have been wonderful partners to us. We recently received a grant in gift cards that permit us to purchase fresh fruit and fresh vegetables, which are just so important to people’s overall health.
Published June 20, 2023.