From: Ridgewood Chamber of Commerce
27 Chestnut St.
Contact: Axiom Communications
201.788.7821 or [email protected]
PROLONGED PANDEMIC & NATURAL DISASTERS REVEAL CONTINUED ECONOMIC AND FOOD INSECURITY IN NORTHERN NEW JERSEY
NJEDA awards $2M for 200,000 meals to HealthBarn Foundation for Feed the Frontlines Program through January 2022 – More Volunteers Needed to Continue Success
RIDGEWOOD, N.J., September 9, 2021 – The economic and human impact of New Jersey’s “Sustain and Serve” grant program proved to be an essential lifeline for Ridgewood restaurants and people facing food insecurity in Bergen County. With the rise in the Delta variant and now the devastating flooding caused by Ida, the need for relief and volunteers is even more urgent. With the second round of the state’s $2 million grant to the HealthBarn Foundation for the “Feed The Frontlines Initiative” – the program starts this week delivering 500 meals daily to Englewood seniors and families impacted by Ida and will then, fold into the full distribution to Bergen County pantries, including Englewood’s Bergen Family Center beginning September 20, 2021.
Volunteers caution that the next round of $2 million over six months will need even more community support. Initially, the second round was to start later this month. Now, with the devastating flooding caused by Ida the effort is beginning food distributions this week. The organizations involved have initiated a volunteer signup system using SignupGenius.com to recruit the extra volunteer drivers needed to deliver the 200,000 meals [LINK: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/9040b4dacae2ca0f58-volunteer].
“The first round of funding was an incredible success in Bergen County. We had a tremendous economic impact by keeping restaurants open and employees working while distributing much needed food to the community. And with the approval of the second ‘Sustain and Serve’ grant, we again have the opportunity to deliver – but we need more volunteer drivers to address the growing need,” said Bergen County Commissioner Tracy Zur who also spearheads the county’s Food Security Task Force. “With the delta variant and the flooding caused by Hurricane Ida, this additional $2 million dollars will be vital to support our neighbors in need. However, in order to bring food to those who are struggling, we need volunteers to be part of the solution.”
The economic impact of the program has been substantial. Restaurants about to shut down were able to keep their doors open, extend worker hours, and even hire more employees because of HealthBarn Foundation’s commitment of $3.1 million NJEDA Sustain and Serve funding for Ridgewood restaurants.
“Without the Sustain and Serve program, there would be more empty stores in downtown Ridgewood.” said It’s Greek to Me owner Paul Vagianos, who was also instrumental in designing and kickstarting this program through the Ridgewood Chamber of Commerce. “Feed the Frontlines kept many restaurants in business during a very dark time. Without the steady stream of income from this program many restaurants would have gone out of business. It was a lifeline for them.”
HealthBarn’s partnership with the Ridgewood Chamber of Commerce’s “Feed the Frontlines” connects local Ridgewood restaurants and food pantries to ensure the program’s success by delivering nutritious, hot meals transported by over 400 volunteers throughout Bergen County. The call for volunteerism has doubled over an extended time period along with the added need due to extensive flooding.
In the first round of HealthBarn’s $1 million grant, volunteer drivers made more than 2,000 trips totaling 1,218 hours and delivered to 217 locations every week for a total of 100,000 meals. Local restaurants, and its team of volunteers’ efforts translated into 10,000 of paid worker hours for dozens of local employees over the three-month period. In recognition of their effort, Commissioner Zur, Vagianos, and the HealthBarn Foundation’s Stacey Antine, MS, RDN will receive the Governor’s Jefferson Award for Volunteerism on September 12, 2021.
In phase two, the NJEDA’s “Sustain and Serve” program awarded $20 million (initially slated for $14 million) in total grants awarded to non-profits from $100,000 to $2 million purchasing bulk meals through local restaurants to be given out to those in need.
About the HealthBarn Foundation:
HealthBarn’s mission is to gift nutritious food through access and in conjunction with nutrition education to children, families and seniors for their health and happiness. There are currently three initiatives that are being funded with generous support from the public including Healing Meals (a nutritious food gifting program), Garden-to-Table Scholarships and School Nutrition.
HealthBarn’s Healing Meals program received the President’s Gold Award for Volunteerism in 2018 for over 3,500 volunteer hours and 9,000+ cooked meals for families with ill children and seniors in need.
In recognition of HealthBarn’s efforts – Founder Stacey Antine rang the closing bell at the NASDAQ on January 5, 2021 highlighting the Foundation’s efforts in fighting food insecurity. The full clip can be found here: https://youtu.be/ICPh1MI3tq4.
About the Ridgewood Chamber of Commerce:
With over 300 members and a 90-year history of serving Bergen County businesses, The Ridgewood Chamber of Commerce is one of the largest and oldest Chambers in the United States. The RCC is a voluntary organization of individuals, businesses, professionals and organizations dedicated to advancing the commercial, professional, civic and general interests of our community.
About NJEDA’s “Sustain and Serve” Program:
The NJEDA’s Sustain and Serve program provides up to $2M grants to organizations to purchase meals from New Jersey-based restaurants that are struggling during the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic.