Fred Wasiak, President and CEO, Food Bank of South Jersey (FBSJ) was not sure what to expect when he met the FBSJ’s Bus Café at Mill Dam Park in Mount Holly. The Bus Café was making one of its stops to drop off fresh and nutritious meals to children enrolled in FBSJ’s Summer Meals program, which provides breakfast, lunch and dinner for 10 weeks in the summer.
“Meeting the Bus Café and being a part of the work that our team does exceeded all of my expectations,” says Fred. “It made me realize that the Summer Meals program is so much more than providing food – we are nourishing much more than children’s bellies.”
Fred was in awe of FBSJ staff members who welcomed the kids onto the Bus Café with open arms.
“It was incredible to see our staff’s interaction with the children – they made sure each child received one-on-one attention and got to talk about what activities they had done that day,” says Fred. “Our staff also used these interactions as an opportunity to mentor the students, reminding them to wash their hands and throw their trash out.”
Fred also met some of the children’s families, which turned out to be one of the most impactful moments of his visit.
“I was already feeling relieved and grateful seeing the children enjoying their meals but speaking with the grandmother of one the children really made the importance of this program hit home for me,” says Fred. “She was so happy and could not stop thanking us for providing her grandson with nourishment before he goes home for the day.”
Since its inception in 2010, the FBSJ’s Summer Meals program has provided nearly 1 million meals to thousands of children. “We have come so far with this program, but we still have so much work left to do,” says Fred. “There are more than 57,000 children in South Jersey who face food insecurity and we will continue to work toward our goal of no child going to bed hungry.”