Feeding Middlesex County 2021 Annual Report

Letter From the Chairman

As Middlesex County residents continue to deal with the devastating effects of the pandemic, we are extremely fortunate that supporters of Feeding Middlesex County – both individuals and the business community – continue to help those who fight food insecurity. During 2021, food insecurity remained high in Middlesex County at an estimated 12 percent. To put this into perspective, that equates to 90,000 people which is approximately the population of Edison Township.

As the second chairperson of Feeding Middlesex County, I would like to recognize Jane Z. Brady, the first chairperson of Feeding Middlesex County. Without Jane’s leadership and dedication to helping our neighbors, Feeding Middlesex County would not have been able to make such a positive impact in the lives of those who struggle with food insecurity. In 2021, our total revenue included a large increase of in-kind donations (many varieties of food) for which we are very grateful. Because of the generosity of our friends, Feeding Middlesex County was also able to purchase $198,523 of food which was distributed by REPLENISH (formerly MCFOODS) to the 150 food pantries around Middlesex County.

While the medical community has worked tirelessly to move us from a pandemic to an endemic, we are now faced with the highest inflation in more than 30 years which means that the challenge to help those who are food insecure continues.

In addition to our financial supporters, I would also like to extend our thanks to the countless volunteers who help us to raise awareness of food insecurity in Middlesex County and collect and distribute food to our neighbors. A key group of volunteers are the members of the Board of Directors of Feeding Middlesex County and I extend my thanks to them also. Everyone’s help is vital to the mission of Feeding Middlesex County, which is to eliminate food insecurity in our county.

Kevin J. Hoagland

Kevin J. Hoagland, Chair

Meeting the Challenge of Shifting Needs

The year 2021 saw the continuing need for Feeding Middlesex County’s support of our food insecure residents.  Food insecurity, defined by the US Department of Agriculture as “a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life,” remained at an astounding 12% in Middlesex County despite the partial reopening of schools and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Residents were also impacted by rising food prices and shortages making those already on the edge teeter to food insecurity.  Contributing factors included job loss and insecurity, increased housing costs and social isolation.  While eliminating food insecurity can only be addressed through major public policy initiatives, the immediate need of getting food to those who need it most falls to the emergency food system and our primary partner, REPLENISH, which distributes food purchased with funds and in-kind food donations provided by Feeding Middlesex County.  

As an all-volunteer organization, Feeding Middlesex County’s board and volunteers work tirelessly to secure monetary funds as well as food donations to meet the growing needs of the 150 food pantries, soup kitchens, community centers and social service agencies reliant on the county’s food bank.  Close to 92% of the funds raised by Feeding Middlesex County goes directly to the purchase of food and necessary items for the county food bank with only 1.46% in administration costs.

In addition to providing funding for food purchases, an important function of Feeding Middlesex County is to communicate the message of supporting our food insecure neighbors and continuously reach out to provide a means to others to join our efforts.  We accomplish this with our monthly newsletter, which is distributed to close to 1,000 readers, targeted email messaging, and through our interactive website. These efforts have resulted in increased in-kind food donations in 2021 as well as increased grant funds.

With a limited return to in-person events, Feeding Middlesex County stood beside REPLENISH at its many food drives throughout the year raising awareness of food insecurity and collecting monetary funds. 

It is only through a multi-prong, concerted effort that we can tackle food insecurity, and we are committed to adapting to changing conditions until we eradicate food insecurity in Middlesex County.

To end food insecurity in Middlesex County.

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.

Why Feeding Middlesex County?

Feeding Middlesex County has grown since its 2017 start. The fundraising goal for the first full year of operations was $50,000, and we met that goal, slightly exceeding it. The onset of the COVID-19 crisis increased the food needs in Middlesex County, and our corporate and individual donors as well as the opportunity to receive public and private grants helped us meet these extreme challenges. In 2021, there was a robust response to our new level of need with revenues increasing to nearly $200,000, along with in-kind donations and grants creating a total revenue of over $587,000.

In 2021, the Middlesex County Commissioners rebranded MCFOODS, the county food bank, and created REPLENISH. The name better fulfills the mission of meeting the nutritional and basic needs of those served in the participating 150 food distribution organizations. REPLENISH continues to collaborate in its many partnerships, especially the partnership with Feeding Middlesex County, to work together to achieve the mission of ending food insecurity in Middlesex County.

MCFOODS was created more than 25 years ago. As a government entity, MCFOODS was not a 501(c)3 charity eligible for tax deductible donations, and it was required to follow public contract regulations, which sometimes proved difficult to act quickly for food emergencies. In 2017, Feeding Middlesex County came into existence as a 501(c)3 charity with the ability to collect funds that are tax deductible for the donors. The ability to negotiate the best prices for food purchases has enabled quick responses to food crises.

The Feeding Middlesex County/MCFOODS partnership (and now REPLENISH) has been very successful and the over 150 food pantries, non-profits and social service organizations participating have been better-served.

Our Process

With donations and grant monies, Feeding Middlesex County purchases food for REPLENISH, the county food bank, and in turn, the food is distributed to the 150 participating food pantries and social service agencies. Feeding Middlesex County also accepts food donations known as in-kind donations that are also distributed via REPLENISH. The 150 food distributors cover all 25 municipalities in Middlesex County. The participating agencies meet REPLENISH criteria including being an official 501(c)3 or house of worship, having food services open to eligible recipients and other relevant standards. Significant due diligence is carried out so that those donating to Feeding Middlesex County are assured that funds are going directly to the cause.

Feeding Middlesex County provided grants to 15 participating agencies in 2021. These grants, ranging from $500 to $4,975, enabled agencies to purchase refrigeration, freezers, shelving, shopping carts, bins, a truck liftgate and a trash shed. In general, the grants aided the food pantries to operate more efficiently.

View all the agencies supported by Feeding Middlesex County/REPLENISH and find one in your community using our interactive spreadsheet below.

Financial Report

TOTAL REVENUE: $587,819

Reflecting Increases of In-Kind Donations and Grants

FY21 REVENUE: $587,819
FY21 EXPENSES $538,016

Revenue and Expenses are listed in the 2021 Audit of Feeding Middlesex County – Statement of Activities.

We would like to thank the donors who have financially supported Feeding Middlesex County in 2021. Your donations during this 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.

Board of Directors

Kevin J. Hoagland
Chair

Jane Leal
Vice Chair

Margaret Pemberton
Secretary

Douglas Petix
Treasurer

Maryrose Agel
Registered Dietician

Yamille Chaves
Provident Bank

Jim Giamarese
Giamarese Farms &
Farmers Against Hunger

 

John Hoagland
Retired Educator

Charles Kenny
Middlesex County Commissioner

Lillian Kozla
Retired Educator

Amy Michael
Rutgers Collaborative Center For Community Engagement

Ganesh Ramakrishnan
Software Engineer

 

Stu Schwartz
Retired Pharmacist & Businessman

Angie Tsirkas
Northfield Bank

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 website, 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, George Francy, Amy Michael, Neil Wolf

Communications Associate: Sylvie Leal

Finance

The Finance Committee implements the fundraising goals instituted by the 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, it focuses on completing research for possible foundation grant opportunities. Members of the community are welcome to serve on this committee.

Members: Margaret Pemberton, Kevin J. Hoagland, Camille Mahon, Douglas Petix, Stu Schwartz

Our Volunteers In Ending Hunger

We partner with REPLENISH in our fight to end hunger.  In addition to their hard-working staff, a small army of volunteers for Feeding Middlesex County and REPLENISH are essential to making this work happen. This section describes just a few examples of that dedication.

In late 2021, COVID-19 restrictions loosened somewhat so that we were able to have volunteers at many of the outdoor events such as drive-by food drives and other events. REPLENISH continued to distribute food and personal products five days a week, and the volunteers from the 150 food pantries and social service agencies were able to pick up food often, putting in extra hours.  There were also extended hours for distributing the food at many of the organizations served via REPLENISH and Feeding Middlesex County.

For the second year in a row, local artist Isabelle Goldman continued to create oil paintings which she sold at holiday time, and the proceeds of the sales were donated to Feeding Middlesex County. Ms. Goldman had previously volunteered at the county food bank but had to stop due to COVID-19 restrictions for volunteering.  She used her creativity to continue to support the fight to end food insecurity in Middlesex County. 

Featured Volunteers

Roy Brinson

Roy Brinson

Roy’s Been There
It was Roy Brinson’s last day at REPLENISH, the county food bank, and his last day here in New Jersey. He was moving to Georgia the very next day to join family there. After seven years handing out food to those in need from Zion Hill Baptist Church in Piscataway, it was clearly a turning point and emotional departure for him.

“It’s my last day here, but my journey continues,” Brinson said at the food pickup at REPLENISH in late June. Zion and 150 other organizations in the county then in turn distribute the food from Replenish.

He hadn’t identified a food pantry in the Peach State to work with just yet. But given his commitment to with Zion’s unnamed food pantry, he won’t stay away from the work for long.

“Give people food. You need food, we’re able to do that,” Brinson said in explaining his volunteerism. While it’s impossible to summarize all that these volunteers do, at Zion, the central outreach consists of handing out about 80 bags of food every Thursday to their regular recipients. They give dry goods, meat, produce and hygiene products. For families with children, there’s a diaper program.

The program grew through word of mouth since it was started by Reverend Leonard Hampton of Zion Hill Baptist Church.

Brinson got involved because, well, he’s been there.

“I do it because… “ and here he trails off and his eyes get watery. “I was homeless. I was there for a while,” he says, gesturing at the great outdoors. “If I see someone else without food, shelter... it bothers me.”

With Brinson leaving, the work will be picked up by Donnie Kimbrough and Harriet Howell, two of the other lead volunteers for Zion.

“We’re going to miss him so much,” Howell said of Brinson. “He’s a hard act to follow.”

But follow they will, because “you just step in and do what you do,” Howell said.

That “doing” entails a 2-hour-plus chunk of time each week, just to pick up the food from REPLENISH. Then, at least another two hours on Thursdays for the doling out to their clients. Then there’s the other tasks that inevitably come up, like delivering to families who maybe weren’t able to make the distribution.

“Commitment - that’s the word,” Howell said of Brinson’s dedication over his seven years to the church’s food distribution.

As with all of the volunteer agencies that work with REPLENISH, Executive Director Jennifer Apostol acknowledges the effort: “He just does what’s needed,” said Apostol.
Drew Idavoy

Drew Idavoy

Princeton Alliance Ushers in the New
While local food pantries run on long-term volunteers to distribute food to their residents, there’s always going to be some turnover (see related story about Roy Brinson), and need for replacements.

Drew Idavoy represents that fresh blood, at Princeton Alliance Church of Plainsboro. Idavoy was drawn in - starting in 2020 - through his wife Hanna, local outreach coordinator for the congregation. But his involvement has ramped up as he started making their pickup up every Wednesday at REPLENISH.

“I like serving; I like serving my church. I have a bunch of roles,” Idavoy said of his efforts. “This is the part of my life that’s not about a paycheck.”

“And of course, the most rewarding outcome is to see people who were served by the pantry start coming to church,” he said.

Idavoy gets a bonus workout from the heavy lifting and moving into the church’s truck or van.

His “chase,” or target food item, is obtaining extra cakes, pastries, or muffins for the clients at Princeton Alliance. Local supermarkets donate these goodies from among their unsold goods. Idavoy’s thinking is that if the basics are covered, everybody deserves a treat once in a while.

While Princeton has extraordinary volunteers like Les Beauchamp and Idavoy, they also have a ground-breaking means of allocating their food from REPLENISH and other sources.

Toni Campbell, benevolence ministry leader at Princeton Alliance, explained that their pantry uses SmartChoice software. This online service uses a point system. For example, a one-person household gets 30 points and points rise from there based on the number of people in the household. Each food item presented in the virtual marketplace has a point value, and the recipient gets to “shop” for themselves with those points. The highest-point item is three points. Fruit cups and granola bars might be half a point. Some items like fruits and vegetables are “free,” and are just included with the order.

Princeton Alliance volunteers assemble the orders, which are picked up on Thursdays. They serve 50 households per week, rotating through about 200 different households per month. Each client typically takes away 4-5 bags of food in their week.

“What it can do as far as the inventory control is just amazing," Campbell explained. “The advantage, with the analytics we put in, is that we don’t want, say, ketchup, to drop below a quantity of 20.” An item dropping below the threshold prompts them to order more.

“I think this is really efficient,” Campbell said. While nearly everyone is able to order through their phone, as a fallback, they call senior citizens or those without a computer in the first week of each month for their order. Aside from those exceptions, Princeton Alliance requires fewer volunteer hours to meet client needs by using SmartChoice.

Another positive of this system is that it lends some empowerment to the recipients, enabling them to choose what they want.

“We want to raise the dignity of the client, and from that standpoint, it’s been amazing. It really has made a huge difference,” Campbell said.
Maureen Erickson

Maureen Erickson

Maureen at Peter’s Pantry
The story of all of these food bank volunteers and their work eventually comes back to the global Coronavirus pandemic of the past two years.

In terms of how they carry out their work – getting the food, providing the food – all while keeping the volunteers and their clients safe, was all the more challenging under the COVID-19 outbreak.

At Peter’s Pantry, at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Perth Amboy, the whole effort is just about back to normal. “We went through the pandemic and that was like a nightmare for 7-8 months, and the number of people coming to the pantry started to decline,” said Maureen Erickson, the director at Peter’s Pantry. While in-person masses stopped, and any annual events and fundraisers were on hold, the need for food pickup never ended, and Erick’s proud of that perseverance.

“Not one day did we stop,” she said.

“Through the whole pandemic, this is the one ministry that has not stopped,” Erickson said of Peter’s Pantry. “Right now, it’s on an upward climb,” she relayed of their client recipients.

They serve around 400 people a month, on Thursdays, like other local food agencies do. They pick up twice a week from REPLENISH in East Brunswick, but that’s supplemented by a delivery from the Community Foodbank of New Jersey of Hillside (which also partly stocks REPLENISH).

Erickson, who has been giving her time at Peter’s Pantry for 14 years, has high praise for everyone at REPLENISH. "Jennifer [Apostol - the director], and her crew - Alberto [Pena], Olivia [Forte-Gardner] - all of them are just phenomenal. They’ll bend over backwards to help you and are always available to meet your needs."

Erickson, a resident of Fords, has her own group who pick up the food (as she does), bring it back, load it into their pantry, and sort and ready the packages in time for that Thursday distribution. That routine plays out at pantries throughout the county, state, and country.

“I have very dedicated volunteers,” Erickson said. “We have about 20, but in different capacities.”

As to her own story of how she got started those 14 years ago, Erickson has a sentiment familiar to many volunteers, who find their children grown and a little extra time available: “I just wanted to help people in need."

Our Events

Although somewhat restricted by COVID-19 protocols in 2021, Feeding Middlesex County was able to participate in outdoor events with REPLENISH, raising over $8,000 in cash donations as well as more than 61,000 pounds of donated food. These events included: 

  • Stop & Shop Stuff the Truck Food Drive in East Brunswick
  • Lowe’s Drive-By Food Drive in Piscataway
  • Monroe Township Drive-By Food Drive
  • East Jersey Old Town Village History Day
  • Woodbridge Center Drive-By Food Drive
  • Countywide Stop & Shop Food Drive
  • ShopRite Wakefern Food Drive in South Brunswick
  • New Brunswick Performing Arts Center Drive-By Food Drive
  • Additional events at East Jersey Old Town Village

Feeding Middlesex County has partnered with REPLENISH (formerly MCFOODS) and other community organizations to present the hunger awareness event, Dine Below the Line. In 2021, due to COVID-19 restrictions, this event went virtual. Held on June 3, it was organized as a cooking competition with 4 participating chefs using ingredients normally found in food pantry distributions and turning them into healthy, gourmet dishes. The virtual locations were St. Peter’s Church, Spotswood, New Brunswick and Piscataway. Besides the live audience viewing the event, there have been over 1,000 views of the event online. Almost $3,000 in donations were received by Feeding Middlesex County.

Our Hunger Heroes

Annually, Feeding Middlesex County and REPLENISH recognize the outstanding efforts of those who are heroes in the fight against food insecurity in Middlesex County. In 2021, we honored:

Government Hunger Hero  Awarded posthumously to Commissioner Kenneth Armwood for his dedication to eradicating food insecurity in Middlesex County. Commissioner Armwood was dedicated to improving the community and we miss his enthusiasm and devotion to our cause.

Community Hunger Hero – Awarded to Isabelle Goldman. In addition to volunteering at the MCFOODS/REPLENISH warehouse, Ms. Goldman created a fundraising program using her creative talent. She offered oil paintings on canvas to friends and family during the holidays and all funds were donated to Feeding Middlesex County.

Corporate Hunger Hero – Awarded to Coca-Cola®. The company has donated more than 450,000 pounds of product to the REPLENISH/MCFOODS operation. Coca-Cola® employees have participated as volunteers in food drives and at the food bank facility.

The Tom Ellison Food Pantry Volunteer Hunger Hero Award – Nominations were received from partner food pantries, and the family of the late warehouse manager Tom Ellison selected the winner. Tom Ellison passed away in 2020. His dedication to fighting food insecurity was unparalleled. Betty Crews of Peter’s Pantry in Perth Amboy received the award. Her dedication to volunteering at the pantry, her ability in improving pantry operations and her never-ending effort to improve the lives of others is noted.

Kenneth Armwood
Commissioner

Isabelle Goldman
Artist and Fund Raiser

Betty Crews
Peter’s Pantry Volunteer

Our Partners in Ending Hunger

Of course, Feeding Middlesex County partners with REPLENISH and the Middlesex County Commissioners to efficiently and effectively provide food to those facing food insecurity in Middlesex County.

We would like to thank our other partners who have donated food, money, supplies and their volunteer time in support of our effort to alleviate food insecurity throughout Middlesex County. These partners consist of individuals, small businesses, major corporations, banks, civic groups, engineering firms, faith-based organizations, food insecurity stakeholders as well as a number of children’s teams and clubs. The number of monthly contributors grew in 2021.

Middlesex County Commissioners

Ronald G. Rios, Director
Shanti Narra, Deputy Director
Claribel A. Azcona-Barber
Charles Kenny
Leslie Koppel
Chanelle Scott McCullum
Charles E. Tomaro

Department of Community Services
Meghan Davey, Department Head

2022 Goals

  1. Continue to encourage repeat donors and build upon our relationship with past donors

  2. Encourage new donors

  3. Provide more in-person fundraising and educational events when appropriate

  4. Increase the number of grant opportunities

  5. Maintain the updated website and keep expanding social media reach

  6. Continue to focus on engagement with the donor base and food insecurity stakeholders through the monthly newsletter and email communications

  7. Keep expanding the Ambassador Program

  8. Complete the Feeding Middlesex County Strategic Plan

2021 saw a transition from the COVID-19 isolation to some opening-up, but the need for food has not substantially decreased.  This situation will continue to be monitored closely in 2022 to determine food needs.

Feeding Middlesex County must keep up the momentum for monetary and food donations to provide support to those that are food insecure.  We continue to be reliant on the generosity of the community, and this will continue to be true in 2022.

We are so grateful that our local residents, businesses and community organizations understand this transition period, and we value their dedication to helping us feed the hungry.

Archive

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