In 1975, Kathleen DiChiara set out to make a difference in the lives of the hungry in her New Jersey neighborhood. A self-proclaimed problem solver, Kathleen started distributing food to the hungry out of the trunk of her station wagon. Those early efforts have evolved into the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, which today distributes 39 million pounds of food and groceries annually, serving 1,500 non-profits in association with its Partner Distribution Organizations. Through their collaboration, they help feed 900,000 of New Jersey’s hungry in 18 of the state’s 21 counties.
Bank of America has enjoyed a 15-year relationship with the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, supporting the organization financially as well as through volunteer efforts – like packaging and distributing food. In 2011, the Bank contributed $1 million to the Food Bank as part of the organization’s $15 million capital campaign.
“We are so thankful for Bank of America for their support,” said DiChiara, Founder and President of Community FoodBank of New Jersey. “They were the first corporation to step up and pledge to our capital campaign. They pledged one million dollars, and that has made all the difference to us.”
America’s economic downturn has had an alarming effect on millions in this country who go without proper nutrition each day. According to the USDA, the number of Americans who don’t have access to food jumped to 49 million – 16 million children among them – in 2010. In New Jersey alone, more than one million people – including 400,000 children – were food insecure in 2009, with nearly half not eligible for federal assistance.
What makes the Community FoodBank of New Jersey unique is its reach beyond its original mission of sourcing and distributing food. The FoodBank’s ultimate goal is to reduce poverty, and the organization runs job training programs and works with educators to provide needy children with food, school supplies, and even clothing that they need through the year.
The FoodBank operates a food service training academy that teaches people how to work in a kitchen, and later, helps place them in restaurant jobs. Many of the students had been previously incarcerated or had other challenges to employment, so the placement represents a fresh start. The FoodBank also has partnered with a local supermarket chain to train butchers and thereby is combating a shortage of butchers in the state.
“The FoodBank is faced with a number of challenges,” said Robert Doherty, Bank of America’s President in New Jersey. “Our state’s poverty rate has grown 20 percent in the last two years, and so, as members of our community, it’s important that we play a role in supporting this worthy organization with our financial and volunteer support. It would be hard pressed to find a more deserving organization.”
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