UNIQUE PARTNERSHIP IS WORKING TO ACHIEVE FOOD SECURITY AND IMPROVE HEALTH
New Jersey’s food banks and Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of NJ have a multi-year commitment to “Growing Healthy Pantries”
NEPTUNE, NJ (September 26, 2023) – More than 725,000 New Jerseyans, including 175,000 children, are food insecure, lacking consistent access to nutritious foods and other basic necessities for growing up healthy.
Yesterday, New Jersey’s five food banks – the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, Food Bank of South Jersey, Fulfill, Mercer Street Friends, and Norwescap – along with their partners, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey and Feeding America, provided an update on a signature collaboration aimed at achieving food security, promoting healthy food choices, and improving the overall health for New Jersey children and families by establishing the first statewide healthy choice pantry model.
The first phase of this 18-month pilot initiative is almost complete and focused on the development of a toolkit to provide local pantries with the knowledge, resources and framework to develop nutrition policy, increase healthy food options and provide essential wrap-around services that address the factors that lead to individuals and families experiencing food insecurity. Yesterday, leaders from the food banks previewed phase two, which will begin with a roll-out of the toolkit to a select group of pilot pantries, with the goal of eventually making the toolkit available to almost 1,000 pantries in the statewide network. The food banks are seeking new funders that can help resource the implementation of the Growing Healthy Pantries in all 21 counties.
“We’re proud to share the progress we’ve made on the Growing Healthy Pantries initiative in the past year,” said Elizabeth McCarthy, President & CEO of the Community FoodBank of New Jersey. “Together, we’ve developed a toolkit to support local food pantries on their journeys to becoming healthier spaces, and we’re excited to invite new partners to help us expand our efforts to address hunger as a health issue and provide our neighbors with the dignity of choice.”
“This exciting, new initiative with the Horizon Foundation of New Jersey goes boldly beyond building nutrition awareness,” said Fred C. Wasiak, President & CEO of the Food Bank of South Jersey. “Together, we are empowering our neighbors throughout the state to create positive outcomes for healthier tomorrows.”
“When we empower people with the knowledge and resources needed to make healthy choices – and we create pantry environments that support those choices – we bring dignity to the pantry shopping experience,” said Triada Stampas, President and CEO of Fulfill. “Growing Healthy Pantries aligns with Fulfill’s commitment that 60 percent of the food we distribute be produce, protein, or dairy. All people should have access to these foods, so that their families are eating as healthy as possible.”
“Food traditionally brings people together. Food banks and pantries do more than provide nutrition. Mercer Street Friends’ food bank opens doors that allow us to coordinate comprehensive supports for students and provide resources for parents,” said Bernie Flynn, CEO of Mercer Street Friends. “The Growing Healthy Pantries initiative is a commitment to building stronger NJ families. Horizon is an important partner in achieving health equity by leveling the playing field with respect to increasing opportunities for healthy living.”
Food bank leaders and representatives from Feeding America and The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey spoke at the event, introducing “Growing Healthy Pantries” and its goals to attendees. Research shows that people living in food insecure households struggle to access nutritious food and face barriers to the consistent adoption of healthy eating patterns. New Jersey’s food banks are in a unique position to address the link between food insecurity and health, and although a focus on hunger as a health issue isn’t new to hunger-relief organizations, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the connection between hunger and health into even sharper focus. The pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on historically underserved and under-resourced communities that also experience higher rates of nutrition-related diseases, such as diabetes. Through “Growing Healthy Pantries” the organizations are joining forces to make an unprecedented commitment to promote greater health equity for all New Jerseyans.
“As a movement, food banks and our pantry partners are moving the fight against food insecurity to the next level, going beyond provide a bag of groceries to attacking some of the barriers that are keeping individuals and families from thriving,” said Mark Valli, CEO of Norwescap. “If they are coming to us for food, they likely need support in other areas like childcare, housing, job training, healthcare, and other vital needs. Healthy pantries is the next step in our ambitious effort to eradicate hunger in New Jersey.”
“Horizon is so proud of the partnership we have built with the state’s five food banks as we continue to work together to address food security and other social determinants of health ,” said Jonathan R. Pearson, Horizon’s Director of Corporate Social Responsibility and the Executive Director of The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey. “We’re eager to bring other partners into the fold who have a shared interest in helping our neighbors in New Jersey thrive and to maximize our impact in the communities we serve.”
ABOUT THE COMMUNITY FOODBANK OF NEW JERSEY
The Community FoodBank of New Jersey (CFBNJ), a member of Feeding America® and the state’s largest anti-hunger organization, has been delivering food, help, and hope across the Garden State for nearly 50 years. Last year, CFBNJ provided nutritious food for over 90 million meals through its network of more than 800 community partners, including food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, child and senior nutrition programs, and more, serving 11 New Jersey counties directly and four in partnership with affiliate food banks. It also addresses the root causes of food insecurity with supportive services like nutrition education, job training, SNAP outreach, and hygiene product distribution. By delivering neighbor-centered solutions and collaborating with all sectors of society, CFBNJ believes that food insecurity is a solvable problem.
ABOUT THE FOOD BANK OF SOUTH JERSEY
The Food Bank of South Jersey believes that no one should go to bed hungry. Since 1985, it has served the children, families and seniors of Burlington, Camden, Gloucester and Salem counties by distributing safe and healthy food, providing nutrition education and cooking course, and developing sustainable pathways for neighbors to improve their lives. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and member of Feeding America, FBSJ distributed more than 15 million meals in 2022 through direct distributions and its network of more than 200 partner agencies. For more information, visit FoodBankSJ.org.
ABOUT FULFILL FOOD BANK
Fulfill has been providing food for families at the Jersey Shore for more than thirty years. We supply over 1.2 million meals per month by distributing food to nearly 300 feeding agencies in Monmouth and Ocean Counties, including soup kitchens, food pantries, and shelters, and by delivering food to families, children, seniors, veterans, and more. Fulfill also offers a suite of programs to connect people to the resources they need to become self-sufficient. Our team assists with applications for SNAP, affordable health care, and Medicaid. They also help with affordable housing applications, budgeting and money management, utility expenses, and senior services. To learn more about our programs or how to get involved, visit www.fulfillnj.org.
ABOUT MERCER STREET FRIENDS
As a Quaker-affiliated, nonsectarian 501(c)(3) organization, Mercer Street Friends is dedicated to nourishing minds and bodies, empowering families and communities by providing comprehensive programs to address poverty and the physical and emotional trauma it creates for children, families and the community. Our programs focus on: food, families and education. As the primary source of government and privately donated food, Mercer Street Friends Food Bank leads the community response to hunger in Mercer County. In 2022, the Food Bank channeled more than 6.3 million meals through a network of more than 100 food pantries, shelters, school districts, soup kitchens, meal sites, senior centers, programs for the disabled and low-income housing sites, serving over 100,000 individuals.
Norwescap provides vital and life-sustaining services to over 30,000 individuals and families who are working to overcome poverty in New Jersey. Our comprehensive programs and strategies address short and long-term needs in education, health and nutrition, employment, financial empowerment, housing and community development, and volunteerism and civic engagement. Since our inception, we have been dedicated to achieving the mission of creating opportunities to transform lives through innovative programs and partnerships. For more information, please visit www.norwescap.org.
ABOUT THE HORIZON FOUNDATION FOR NEW JERSEY
The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey is the philanthropic arm of Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey. Its mission is to make New Jersey healthier by supporting non-profit organizations that expand access to health care, remove barriers to good health and increase opportunities for everyone to live the healthiest life possible, no matter who they are or where they live. Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey and The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey are independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. For more information, please visit HZNFoundation.org.