Beginning March 1, South Brunswick is asked once again to answer the challenge to help fight hunger for low income families in the township.
Each year, from March 1 through April 30, the Feinstein Foundation's Challenge to Fight Hunger asks anti-hunger agencies across the country to raise funds and collect as many food donations as possible. Alan Shawn Feinstein, founder of The Feinstein Foundation, then divides his donation of $1 million proportionately among approximately 2,000 agencies participating in the challenge. Each food item donated is valued at $1 per item.
"This has turned out to be our largest fundraiser each year," said South Brunswick Social Services Director LouAnne Wolf.
While the Feinstein Foundation's annual event is in its 16th year, this is the fourth year South Brunswick has participated in the challenge.
South Brunswick was able to generate the eighth-highest donation total in the state of New Jersey last year with $43,534.77 in monetary donations and 26,925 food items. In 2011, South Brunswick donated 19,703 food items and donated $46,126 in cash to the pantry during the Challenge to Fight Hunger.
In 2010, the Food Pantry collected 16,092 in food items and raised $31,584.10 in donations.
"We count on donations from our community to survive," Wolf said. "We don't take food from the Middlesex County food bank, so this is a big fundraiser for us and takes us right up to the holiday season."
Last year was one of the busiest in history for South Brunswick's Social Services Department, as an ever-rising number of families came in for assistance with unemployment benefits running out amidst a struggle to find work. During the holidays alone, Social Services aided over 200 families over Thanksgiving with food boxes, and helped about 230 families during Christmas.
"It always slows down a little at the beginning of the year, but we've already seen a big increase from January to February," Wolf said. "People don't come back quite as fast in January, but we've already seen 15 more people than last month and we're back to over 60 for February."
The Food Pantry provides food and gift cards to less fortunate families all year round. Social Services also provides emergency assistance by helping families with utility bills and rental assistance. The department is largely funded by donations from schools, clergy, small and large businesses, and residents, which makes the challenge so vital.
"The Challenge isn't so much about what we get back from the Feinstein Foundation as much as it is about increasing awareness," Wolf said. "It's been a win-win situation for us."
Last year, S.T. Peterson and Company in Monmouth Junction, First Presbyterian Church of Dayton, and Stop & Shop were three of the top sources for monetary donations.
Community Presbyterian Church of Sand Hills, Indian Fields Elementary School, Knights of Columbus of St. Cecilia's, Boy Scouts, local Girl Scouts, the South Brunswick Mom's Club, Sunny Delight, Aptec Packaging, Bunzl, Dow Jones, ADP, St. Cecilia's Church, St. Augustine of Canterbury, and Six Mile Run Church were also instrumental in aiding the pantry during the challenge.
"This helps us bridge the gap until we start holiday collections and as long as financial donations continue to roll in, then we don't have to say no to anyone who qualifies for financial assiatance," Wolf said. "Our goal is to have our donation total higher than it was in 2012."
Please send donations to LouAnne Wolf, Director of Social Services, South Brunswick Social Services, PO Box 190, Monmouth Junction, NJ 08852.
Please mark "Feinstein Foundation" in the memo on your check. All donations should be made payable to the South Brunswick Human Intervention Trust Fund. All checks should be dated later than March 1.
For more information about donating or volunteering for the South Brunswick Food Pantry call 732-329-4000 ext. 7674.