Healthy Pantries, Healthy Patrons
MEND launched its Healthy Pantries, Healthy Patrons program in 2016. This program addresses challenges faced by food pantries and their patrons in accessing fresh and healthy foods, and is based on our belief that all people should have access to fresh and healthy foods, regardless of socio-economic status. MEND’s short-term goal is to improve its patrons’ access to healthier foods. Longer-term, it seeks to provide patrons with nutritional information and the means for healthy eating on a budget.
The Green Bean
MEND is repurposing a donated school bus into a healthy food collection vehicle and mobile food pantry. Our “Green Bean” will bring fresh and healthy foods to underserved communities across Essex County. Interior shelving is being installed to allow the bus to serve as a mobile food pantry, free farmers market, and a “Stuff the Bus” food collection vehicle at schools, libraries, and community events. MEND is partnering with the Junior League of the Oranges and Short Hills to launch the bus in the Spring of 2018.
Summer Hunger Busters
During the school year, many children have access to federally-funded school-based lunch and breakfast programs. During the summer, only 19% of children in New Jersey who are eligible for free or reduced-price meals in school are able participate in a summer feeding program due to distance or capacity constraints. To fill this meal gap, MEND’s Summer Hunger Busters program provides supplemental food packages to families in need with school-aged children. Over 9,000 pounds of healthy kid-friendly food were distributed through our pantry network during July, August, and early September of 2017.
Help a Family
During the holidays we sponsor a unique program called “Help-a-Family”, which started more than 30 years ago when we realized there would be families in our service area who would not be able to celebrate a traditional holiday without some outside support. Our Help-a-Family program is designed to respond to this need and provide our sponsors with a personal approach to holiday giving. Each year MEND food pantry managers prepare client profiles for critically in-need families they serve at their pantry. Profiles identify items needed, including sizes, colors, ages and genders of recipients. MEND then matches each family profile with an appropriate sponsor, an individual, school, house of worship, community organization, or business.