…and where we find ourselves to date:
CFBNJ began in the back of our founder’s station wagon and is now the largest anti-hunger and anti-poverty organization in New Jersey. It has provided families across the state with food, help and hope for more than 48 years. While disaster and emergency response are part of our history – notably Superstorm Sandy in 2012 – nothing prepared CFBNJ for what would be needed during the COVID-19 pandemic from 2020 to 2023. In the pandemic’s first days, CFBNJ shifted to a 24/7 operation as businesses shut down and people lost jobs. Neighbors who were already living paycheck to paycheck and many who had never needed help before in their lives, found themselves struggling to pay bills and keep food on the table.
The state and federal government stepped in, and private citizens and companies were incredibly generous. CFBNJ protected its employees and reimagined food supply chains to develop a relevant response, resulting in emergency food distribution and other programs nearly doubling to meet the unprecedented need. Emerging from the pandemic, CFBNJ has 250 employees who fight hunger every day alongside 800 partner agencies. Together, we purchase and collect food for distribution; bolster food security through SNAP application assistance; invest in our network of community partners; inspire healthy lifestyles through nutrition education; advance economic mobility via workforce development efforts; reach communities with higher need and/or limited access to food; give voice to the complex ecosystem and root causes of food insecurity; and encourage others to get involved.
Food banking across the country is in the midst of a sea-change – actively re-examining traditional ways of providing service and working towards “new and better” responses. The 2022 White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition & Health and Feeding America are shifting the national narrative, and CFBNJ is in lockstep with an ambitious vision to “reduce food insecurity by 50% by the year 2030.”
In many respects, New Jersey is leading the way. Our state is committed to public-private partnership and bi-partisan solutions. Leaders hold a universal belief that New Jersey families should be food secure, especially in our Garden State. CFBNJ’s mission-focused growth and approach through the pandemic has largely been possible through grit and passion. As we reflect on the problem of food insecurity, as well as solutions and our capabilities, we acknowledge that our work has been hampered by a need to more deeply understand those we serve, a lack of technology, a limited ability to measure effectiveness and impact, and the limitations of our antiquated physical resources.