There are more than 34 million people in America who are food insecure. “Food Insecure” is not simply about being “hungry” – to be food insecure means that someone lacks regular access to sufficient and nourishing food. While every region in the country is home to families who face hunger, rural communities like many of the ones served by Norwescap, are often hit. Reasons for this are many – rural and semi-rural areas can be “food deserts,” a term to describe lack of access due to constraints in income, location, time, and the ability to travel to a store. If public transportation is another limitation, it becomes more difficult for people to get to grocery stores or food pantries. Depending on where in New Jersey you live and the transportation you have access to, healthy and affordable food options do not always look the same. Add to that systemic issues that have created higher rates of food insecurity for our neighbors who are Black or Indigenous; immigrant families; and families with children, and it’s no surprise that food insecurity is a significant and rising crisis in our region. Every day, millions of people in America are just one job loss, one missed paycheck, or one medical emergency away from having to choose between groceries or paying rent.
But here’s the good news – we are not alone in our efforts to resolve hunger issues and improve food security in New Jersey! As a member of the Feeding America network, Norwescap partners with other food banks throughout the state – The Community Food Bank of New Jersey, the Food Bank of South Jersey, Fulfill, and Mercer Street Friends – to weave a safety net that brings healthy food, as well as other vital programs and resources, to hundreds of thousands of families each year. Every year in September, we recognize Hunger Action Month – and as the title implies, ACTION was the keyword at Norwescap all month long!
Action 1 – We started the month off by raising awareness through our social media posts, making a promise that we would continue the conversation about hunger and food security throughout the month. Check out our social platforms to see what you may have missed:
Action 2 –Norwescap’s Food Bank hosted our annual Empty Bowls event on Tuesday, September 13th. After many years of literally breaking bread and sipping soup with the community for this time-honored event that raises funds while nourishing our souls, we were once again able to bring it back under the Covid-safe standards of a Drive-Up Take-Out… and it still proved to be a fun and worthwhile event! We are thankful to Blair Academy for the beautiful handmade bowls; to Panera and Weis Markets for the delicious soups; and to everyone who supported this fundraiser.
Action 3 – We put it in the bag! Norwescap’s CEO Mark Valli participated in ‘Help Bag Hunger Day’ on Thursday September 15 at the Clinton ShopRite as part of ShopRite of Hunterdon supermarkets’ annual tradition. This event brings together community leaders and local ‘celebrity baggers’ such as mayors, council people, athletes, police and firefighters to pitch in and help raise awareness around the issue of food insecurity by bagging groceries at their local ShopRite stores. Our CEO Mark Valli teamed up with Karen Widico & Meghan Moore from Prevention Resources to bag groceries for customers at ShopRite in Clinton, NJ. This was a great opportunity for them to spread the message that hunger and food insecurity is very real and to get feedback from members of the community about these issues. We have great photos for you to check out on our Facebook page here: Norwescap New Jersey’s Facebook Page. We are grateful to our long-time partners at ShopRite of Hunterdon County for including us in this wonderful event!
Action 4 – This may arguably have been the MOST fun and action focused way to be a part of a great cause: RUNNING! We again give enormous thanks to our partners at ShopRite of Hunterdon County for choosing us as the beneficiary for their annual Race for Hunger. This annual run/walk has been raising awareness and critical funds in the community for over 25 years. Altogether, the event has raised more than $500,000, helping us distribute enough nutritious food to provide millions of meals. We love putting our feet, literally, on the ground in this 5k race (or taking the more leisurely pace in the 3k walk) each year. We would like to thank all the runners, sponsors and donors that attended & supported the Race for Hunger at Deer Park Path on Sept 18th. In all, the event raised $45,000 for Norwescap Food Bank. This event and the money raised helps Norwescap bring necessary food resources to thousands of people who are relying on our support now more than ever.
Action 5 – As the month of recognition culminated in Hunger Action Day on Friday, September 23, Norwescap joined other state leaders at a ‘Feeding New Jersey’ Conference, hosted at the Community Food Bank of New Jersey in Hillside. The CEOs of each of the five NJ food banks, along with leaders from our partner food pantries, shared their unique experiences and perspectives on food security throughout our state; and we collectively recognized the leadership of NJ Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, who has been a major advocate in driving awareness and building resources at the state level to increase food security for all New Jerseyans. Norwescap’s CEO Mark Valli shared his insight on Norwescap’s unique role in improving food security in our region, and his call to action to each and every one of us to get involved. You can view his talk, live-streamed on our Instagram, here: Norwescap New Jersey on Instagram 9/23/22 Live Feed
As September comes to a close, all of us at Norwescap remain committed every day to staying ACTIVE in our efforts to improve food security for each and every one of our neighbors. You can be a part of the action, too! Make a gift today to support our continued work, or visit our website to learn more about how you can get involved.