Feeding Middlesex County 2020 Annual Report

Letter From the Chair

Incredible challenge. Incredible response.

How does one summarize 2020, a pandemic year in the United States?

Despite the circumstances, Feeding Middlesex County had an INCREDIBLE response throughout the year. Here are just a few to highlight:

  • More than 1,100 unique donors

  • Increase of 307% in cash donations totalling over $364,000

  • Significant increase in repeat donors

  • Increase of 165% in In-kind donations totalling over $144,000

All without holding a single, in-person event due to the pandemic is truly INCREDIBLE!

Feeding Middlesex County experienced an outpouring of support both from within Middlesex County and from outside the County. The generosity of our supporters enabled Feeding Middlesex County to purchase food throughout 2020 for the county food bank, MCFOODS. In turn your support has provided over 140 pantries, soup kitchens and social service organizations with supplemental necessities and made food available to all during this YEAR OF INCREDIBLE NEED. Feeding Middlesex County thanks every single donor, every organization and every company who contributed during 2020. Our mission is to financially support organizations that feed the hungry in Middlesex County and this would be impossible to accomplish without all this support. What generous people! We are honored by your trust in this organization.Now, we look ahead to the ongoing need in 2021. Feeding Middlesex County will continue to seek partnerships to expand our base of support as we strive to achieve our vision to eliminate food insecurity in Middlesex County.

Jane Z. Brady, Chair

Jane Z. Brady

Our Incredible Need

2020 was a crucial year for Feeding Middlesex County. Food insecurity grew in Middlesex County. Our partner, MCFOODS, the county food bank, experienced an increase in the need for food as more of our neighbors were unemployed and children were schooling virtually. In order to fill the empty shelves at MCFOODS, Feeding Middlesex County’s board and volunteers were determined to secure monetary as well as food donations to meet the needs of the 140 food pantries, soup kitchens, community centers and social service agencies reliant on the county food bank. Close to 97% of the funds raised by Feeding Middlesex County goes directly to the purchase of food and necessary items for the county food bank.

According to the Community Food Bank of New Jersey, more than 12% (approx. 98,400 residents) of our county are now food insecure. There had been a downward trend in food insecurity in previous years, but the impact of the Coronavirus reversed this trend with the Middlesex County food insecurity number going from 7.3% to more than 12%.

Feeding Middlesex County had to keep up with demands while abiding by COVID-19 restrictions. Through our website, electronic newsletter, social media and specific email campaigns, we were able to explain the difficulties residents of Middlesex County were facing and individuals, businesses and organizations resoundingly answered our requests. We saw an uptick in both monetary donations and in-kind food donations.

Feeding Middlesex County also partnered with MCFOODS and local organizations to promote drive-by food collections, virtual events and ongoing food pick-ups. These new protocols helped us serve in new ways to ensure safety, efficiency and well-stocked shelves at the county food bank.

Board of Directors

Jane Z. Brady⏐ Chair
Former Middlesex County Freeholder

Jane Leal⏐Vice Chair
Retired County Authority Administrator

 

Margaret Pemberton⏐ Secertary
Retired Middlesex County Freeholder Clerk

Angie Tsirkas⏐ Treasurer
Jan – AugNorthfield Bank

 

Gary Karlin⏐ Treasurer
Aug – DecRetired Institutional Investor

Maryrose Agel
Registered Dietician

Yamille Chaves
Provident Bank

Jim Giamarese
Giamarese Farms & Famers Against Hunger

John Hoagland
Retired Educator

 

Charles Kenny
Middlesex County Freeholder

Lillian Kozla
Retired Educator

Amy Michael
Rutgers Collaborative Center for Community-Based Research and Services

Ganesh Ramakrishnan
Software Engineer

 

Stu Schwartz
Retired Pharmacist & Businessman

Neil Wolf
Retired Pharmaceutical Marketer

Daria Anne Venezia
Counsel

Committees

Feeding Middlesex County’s committees are comprised of board members as well as volunteers from the community. In addition to the Finance and Communications committees, there are committees to plan and execute events, both in person and virtually. Our committee members are creative and motivated, and their work involves teamwork and dedicated community service.

Communications

The Communications Committee oversees the creation and maintenance of the Feeding Middlesex County websites, social media channels and publications. Its work is based on marketing goals and brand strategies that achieve the fundraising objectives with the ultimate goal of ending food insecurity in Middlesex County. 

Members: Jane Leal, Jennifer Apostol, Jane Z. Brady, Yamille Chaves, Amy Michael, Neil Wolf

Finance

The Finance Committee implements the fundraising goals instituted by Feeding Middlesex County Board, including the creation and implementation of specific fundraising projects and events. The Committee concentrates on how to engage corporate and individual donors. Additionally, they focus on completing research on possible foundation grant opportunities available. 

Members: Margaret Pemberton, Kevin Hoagland, Gary Karlin, Camille Mahon, Tania Mansuri, Stu Schwartz

Our Mission

Feeding Middlesex County financially supports organizations that feed the hungry. 

We raise funds to purchase food and equipment to assist qualifying agencies in procuring, storing, preserving and transporting food and other necessary items to our food insecure neighbors.

Our Vision

To end food insecurity in Middlesex County.

Why Feeding Middlesex County?

As a government entity, MCFOODS was not a 501(c)3 charity for tax deductible donations and it was required to follow public contract regulations which sometimes proved difficult to act quickly for food emergencies. 

Discussions ensued between the Middlesex County Improvement Authority, the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders and County Counsel about the advantages of creating 501(c)3 charity and with the flexibility to utilize funds collected that are tax deductible. The ability to negotiate the best prices for food purchases has enabled quick responses to food crises. 

The Feeding Middlesex County/MCFOODS partnership has been very successful, and the over 150 food pantries, non-profits and social service organizations participating are better-served. At the times of the year when food bank shelves are empty or close to empty, Feeding Middlesex County is able to purchase food in an efficient and timely way. 

Our Process

Donations to Feeding Middlesex County result in the purchase of food that is distributed to 150 different food providers in all 25 municipalities in Middlesex County. In turn, these providers distribute food to families, seniors and the disabled.

All agencies eligible for assistance from Feeding Middlesex County must be 501(c)3 organizations, related to houses of worship, schools or local governments.

We conduct significant due diligence to assure support goes to appropriate organizations, so our partners can have confidence that their support is going directly to the cause.

View the agencies that we support and find one in your community using our interactive spreadsheet below.

Financial Report

$373,803.61

MORE THAN 2019’S REVENUE OF $146,834.15

FY20 REVENUE: $520,637.76
FY20 EXPENSES: $410,362.84

We would like to thank the donors who have financially supported Feeding Middlesex County in 2020. Your donations during this pandemic year were crucial to our ability to meet the increasing need for food at local food pantries, community centers and other organizations throughout Middlesex County.

Our Volunteers In Ending Hunger

Together we are fighting hunger in Middlesex County.  Our volunteers are essential to what we do at Feeding Middlesex County.  Before COVID-19 restrictions, volunteers assisted in sorting and packing up food for distribution.  During COVID-19 restrictions, volunteers came out in force throughout the year to drive-by food drives to assist with collecting and packing food for transit to the MCFOODS warehouse.  To meet the increased need of the community, the MCFOODS warehouse increased their distribution from 2 days a week to 5 days a week.  In turn, volunteers from the 140 food pantries spent many extra hours collecting from the warehouse and many extra hours at their own facilities distributing food to fight hunger in Middlesex County.

Featured Volunteers

Kathy Ruffe⏐Louie Rolin

Kathy Ruffe⏐Louie Rolin

St. Vincent DePaul Society⏐ Ebenezer Baptist Church⏐New Brunswick
Kathy's Story: I've been volunteering at the food pantry for 24 years. My mom was volunteering there and during a pregnancy, I decided to continue the family volunteer tradition. I enjoy doing it because it helps people. We distribute food two days a week; Wednesday and Saturday. During COVID, we discontinued indoor distribution, and now we distribute outside the doorway. The number of people served during the 2020 calendar year actually went down, potentially due to factors such as degree of comfort leaving the house and access to transportation. As we move forward in 2021, we hope to to be able to serve the number of people who have been served during pre-pandemic times. 

Louie's Story: The Ebenezer Baptist Church soup kitchen has been operating for 35 years. I have been running the soup kitchen at the church for 8 years serving 400 people each week. With the pandemic shutting down indoor activity, we developed a master list of about 100 families (average of 4 people per family). We now package food of 20-25 pounds and we deliver it directly to the homes. People are out of work; kids are out of school. There's limited money for meals. There is still a lot of unemployment. In addition to food, we also distribute clothing to those in need. We have a rapport with the other food pantries and MCFOODS. We work together. We share Louie Rolin, manager of the Ebenezer Baptist Church soup kitchen/food pantry and Kathy Ruffe, a long-term volunteer at the St. Vincent DePaul food pantry.
Reverend Dee Davison

Reverend Dee Davison

Sharon Baptist Church Food Pantry⏐ New Brunswick
Before the pandemic, people came into our fellowship hall to pick up food. This changed as we now bring the food out to cars in the parking lot. Before the pandemic, we distributed food once a month; now we distribute food once a week. We regularly serve 70 or 75 families, up from 50 and recently, we served 135 families in one day. I can see the increase in the need for many families, and in addition to food, they are now requesting personal care items, especially diapers.
Tania Mansuri

Tania Mansuri

FMC/MCFOODS Volunteer⏐ East Brunswick
I started volunteering at the warehouse in 2018 when I had left my job as a Senior Project Manager. MCFOODS provided me an opportunity to serve the East Brunswick community where I live by working on tasks like sorting donations into bins, bagging, and loading flatbed carts for pickup. After landing a full-time position, I still come to the warehouse and volunteer when I can. When the pandemic hit, there were restrictions on volunteering, and I know it took a lot of time for the coordinator and the warehouse workers to gain control of the extra need. It continues to impress me how efficient the process is and how warm the people are who are involved. I'm glad to be back volunteering.

Our Events

Live events in 2020 were almost non existent due to COVID-19 protocols. It was our intention to keep our popular events going such as; Dine Below the Line and the Walk to End Hunger. Each will be presented in formats that respect the necessary social distancing.

Our Hunger Heroes

On September 24, 2020 a live stream event from the studio of Piscataway Community Television Center to honor five deserving hunger heroes of Middlesex County. Feeding Middlesex County presented the awards in the following categories:

The Posthumous Hunger Hero Award to Tom Ellison, accepted by his family. Tom is the late manager of the MCFOODS warehouse and his dedication to fighting hunger on the job and off the job is unparalleled.

The Tom Ellison Volunteer Hunger Hero Award to Kathi Lombardi was presented by the Ellison family for Kathi’s work at the Highland Park Food Pantry.

The Community Hunger Hero Award to Lisa Chippendale for 6 years of family-led food drives that resulted in 22,000 pounds of donated food to the county food bank.

The Corporate Hunger Hero Award to ShopRite of Spotswood. The store’s team regularly works with Feeding Middlesex County to facilitate purchases, and the store ran a food drive with its customers raising 15,450 pounds of donated food.

The Government Hunger Hero Award to NJ State Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin for supporting legislation to help food insecure residents in New Jersey and for his sponsorship of “Bowl to End Hunger” to raise awareness of and funds for food pantries.

Opening remarks by Jane Z. Brady (FMC Chair), Jennifer Apostol (MCFOODS Director), and Jane Leal (FMC Vice Chair) focused on the creation of Feeding Middlesex County, the activities run by MCFOODS and the impact COVID-19 has had on the level of food insecurity in Middlesex County.

Craig Coughlin
NJ State Assembly Speaker

Jennifer Apostol
MCFOODS Director

Tom Ellison
Late MCFOODS Warehouse Manager

Our Partners in Ending Hunger

We would like to thank our partners who have donated supplies, food and money in support of our effort to alleviate food insecurity throughout the County. These partners consist of individuals, small businesses, major corporations, civic groups, faith-based groups and a number of children’s teams and clubs. It was also a year when some donors signed on as monthly contributors to Feeding Middlesex County.

Board of Chosen Freeholders

Ronald G. Rios, Director

Kenneth Armwood, Deputy Director

Claribel A. Azcona-Barber

Charles Kenny

Leslie Koppel

Shanti Narra

Charles E. Tomaro

Board of Commissioners

James P. Nolan, Chairman

Anthony Raczynski, Vice Chairman

Paul Abbey, Secretary-Treasurer

Christine D’Agostino

Samuel A. Delgado

Kenneth Armwood, Deputy Director & MCIA Liaison

H. James Polos, Executive Director

Our Goals for 2021

  1. Continue the momentum of INCREDIBLE giving by converting “pandemic donors” into “repeat donors”

  2. Build upon our relationship with past donors

  3. Return (when appropriate) to in-person fundraising and educational events

  4. Seek to increase the number of grant opportunities

  5. Upgrade and maintain the current Feeding Middlesex County website and expand social media reach

  6. Focus on engagement with the donor base through newsletters and direct emails

  7. Expand the Feeding Middlesex County ambassador program

But, the unknowns about COVID-19 and the food insecurity status in 2021 makes it clear that the need is not decreasing substantially.

Feeding Middlesex County must keep up the momentum for monetary and food donations to provide support to those that are food insecure. We have been reliant on the generosity of the community and this continues to be true for 2021.

We are so grateful that our local residents, businesses and community organizations understand the crisis we are all facing and that their response will enable us to keep feeding the hungry.

Archive

To view previous annual reports, please click on the corresponding link below. Thank you.