In the face of unprecedented challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, communities across New Jersey rallied together to combat food insecurity.
One remarkable initiative that emerged from these efforts is the Sustain & Serve NJ program, launched by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) in late 2020. What started as a $2 million pilot project to support struggling restaurants has expanded into a $57.6 million program, exemplifying the spirit of collaboration and resilience.
With a mission to not only rescue restaurants but also to ensure that no resident goes hungry, Sustain & Serve NJ recently celebrated a significant milestone by facilitating the purchase and distribution of over 5 million meals. Among the organizations at the forefront of this compassionate movement is “A Need We Feed,” a local non profit, service organization in Ocean County. Read our origin story, here.
Sustain & Serve NJ: A Beacon of Hope
When the pandemic began, the restaurant industry was among the hardest hit economically. Sustain & Serve NJ emerged as a beacon of hope, offering a lifeline to struggling eateries.
The program’s innovative approach allowed restaurants to stay afloat while simultaneously addressing the growing concern of food insecurity. What began as a mere pilot project transformed into a dynamic force that has transcended its original scope.
Empowering Restaurants, Nourishing Communities
The program’s expansion to a $57.6 million initiative marked a turning point.
This expansion allowed 36 organizations to collaborate with nearly 450 restaurants scattered across 179 municipalities in all 21 counties of New Jersey. This symbiotic relationship not only rejuvenated local restaurants but also filled the plates of countless residents facing food insecurity.
NJEDA’s Report and Inspiring Video
To commemorate this incredible journey, the NJEDA unveiled a detailed report and a heartwarming video that eloquently portray the program’s profound impact. Through these mediums, grantees and restaurant owners share their experiences, shedding light on the transformative power of unity and compassion.
A Need We Feed: A Local Volunteer Organization’s Impact
Amidst this collective effort, “A Need We Feed”, which had been providing four annual holiday feedings since Hurricane Sandy devastated our local area in 2012, rallied together and stepped up to help fulfill the exploding need in Ocean County. As the pandemic surged, so did the demand for meals. The organization swiftly transitioned from providing a modest 120-150 meals per week to an astonishing 900-1,000 meals per week. However, sustaining this intensified support within their existing budget proved to be a challenge.
Leveraging the Sustain & Serve NJ Grant
In a stroke of providence, the NJEDA’s Sustain & Serve NJ grant emerged. This grant not only shored up the organization’s financial foundation but also empowered them to serve an even larger segment of the population. It became a lifeline that enabled “A Need We Feed” to stay true to its mission of eradicating food insecurity in Ocean County.
Expanding Reach, Alleviating Food Insecurity
With the support of the Sustain & Serve NJ grant, “A Need We Feed” expanded its reach, touching the lives of countless individuals and families struggling to put food on the table. This partnership exemplifies the program’s core essence – uniting nonprofits, local restaurants, and communities in an unbreakable chain of support.
Sustain & Serve NJ is a testament to the power of collaboration, compassion, and resilience
The program’s evolution from a $2 million pilot to a $57.6 million initiative reflects its unwavering commitment to uplifting both restaurants and residents in need. “A Need We Feed” stands as an example of how these initiatives create a profound impact at the local level, nourishing not only stomachs but also spirits. Together, we can build a stronger, more resilient New Jersey where no one goes to bed hungry.