LAWRENCEVILLE, N.J. – On Thursday, June 8th, the Community FoodBank of New Jersey (CFBNJ), Food Bank of South Jersey, Fulfill, Mercer Street Friends and Norwescap hosted Feeding New Jersey 2023, the state’s first conference on food insecurity for food pantries, soup kitchens and other local food assistance organizations. Nearly 300 representatives from more than 145 nonprofits across the state attended the conference, which was held at Rider University.
Feeding New Jersey 2023 gave participants a chance to connect with other organizations, learn about best practices to increase capacity and effectiveness and collaborate for hunger-relief. The schedule included an advocacy panel with all five food bank CEOs, a welcome address by New Jersey Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin and Director of the New Jersey Office of the Food Security Advocate Mark Dinglasan, peer-to-peer discussions, a networking lunch, a town hall on operational excellence and closing remarks from Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, CEO of Feeding America.
“This event built on the progress we’ve made together to fight food insecurity. We have changed the conversation on hunger, in no small part because of coalitions like this,” said Coughlin. “Food banks, experts and advocates have shared their wisdom and strengthened our state’s resolve to alleviate hunger and find long-term solutions.”
Peer-to-peer sessions featured discussions with food bank representatives on communications, grant writing, nutrition, SNAP outreach, volunteering and succession planning. Afterwards, attendees spoke about the value of the engaging and educational event.
“As a Fulfill partner, I am very aware of how we benefit from working together with our food bank. I was honored to help plan this inaugural conference,” said Geralyn Fraggetta-Drury, executive director of Freehold Open Door. “I knew it would be beneficial to bring feeding agencies from across the state together, but I never imagined how wonderful it would be. The innovation, dedication, creativity, passion, heart and support that we share is simply amazing. We are stronger together and, one-by-one, we can make sure the voices of the families we serve are heard. I am excited to work as a cohesive group dedicated to ending hunger.”
The five New Jersey food banks plan to host Feeding New Jersey annually to strengthen the partnership among the state’s network of food assistance organizations in pursuit of a hunger-free Garden State.
“This first-ever event brought together a statewide network of organizations with a common goal – to end food insecurity in New Jersey,” said Joe Dempsey, interim CEO at CFBNJ. “When we share our knowledge and resources, we can amplify our impact to make a real and lasting difference for our neighbors in need. I’m proud of what we accomplished together at Feeding New Jersey 2023, and I look forward to further strengthening these partnerships in the future.”
“Our pantry partners are so vital to our organizations and the work we are doing collectively to create a hunger-free New Jersey,” said Fred Wasiak, president and CEO of the Food Bank of South Jersey. “Deeply embedded in our communities, our pantry leaders are on the forefront of serving our neighbors. Their voices are integral to our operations, and this conference is a tremendous opportunity for them to share ideas and connect with colleagues from across the state.”
“After having to take a pandemic pause on our annual feeding network conference at the Jersey Shore, we are so excited to come back from COVID with a conference that’s statewide,” said Triada Stampas, president and CEO of Fulfill. “We always learn so much from bringing our feeding partners together, and as expected, the conference was a great experience for everyone who attended. We are all committed to the same mission, and it was a great day of sharing and learning from one another.”
“Mercer Street Friends has become a more focused and forward-thinking organization in recent years. The opportunity to share successes and challenges with our peers across the state enhances the work we do and helps us be a better neighbor,” said Bernie Flynn, CEO of Mercer Street Friends. “Together with a strong network of local partners, we’re consciously bringing new resources and making impactful investments so that families aren’t having to make difficult choices around basic needs.”
“Feeding New Jersey 2023 was the first-of-its-kind gathering of organizations dedicated to ending food insecurity in our state. The conference provided a powerful platform for sharing knowledge, resources and best practices, amplifying our impact and bringing us one step closer to a hunger-free New Jersey,” said Mark Valli, CEO of Norwescap. “At Norwescap, we understand that access to nutritious food is crucial for the health and well-being of individuals and families.”
“Through our advocacy work and programs like Women Infants Children (WIC) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) outreach, we strive to address the intersection of nutrition, health and food security,” Valli continued. “Together, we can make a real and lasting difference for our neighbors in need, ensuring that no one in New Jersey goes to bed hungry. With continued support, we are transforming lives and empowering communities.”