MyCentralJersey.com: Somerset County residents asked to help curb hunger
If Chuck Knill has his way, everyone will be wearing bright orange this month.
“Get out the Halloween costumes and put them on,” Knill said during Monday’s official kickoff of the annual Curbing Hunger Month food collection drive in Somerset County. In a sea of dark business suits, Knill, Curbing Hunger Board president, took his own advice by wearing an orange T-shirt underneath a sport coat for the event.
While the Rev. Rick Morley, rector at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in the Basking Ridge section of Bernards, wasn’t wearing orange Monday, he will be wearing orange during mass celebrations throughout the month, although the usual liturgical vestment colors of the season are green or white.
Morley will be wearing a vestment made by church member and Ridge High School sophomore Katie Williams, as one more sign of support for the annual Curbing Hunger collection, which was the brainchild two decades ago of the then-rector at St. Mark’s.
This year’s kickoff was conducted at the church to celebrate those caring community roots. While residents are again being asked to put food donations in bright-orange plastic bags for curbside pickup during the month, officials also announced an expanded online donation component that allows residents from throughout North and Central Jersey to participate in food collection efforts for their particular counties and help some 30 organizations.
In Somerset County alone, Knill hopes that residents will provide more than 60,000 pounds of nonperishable food supplies for the Food Bank Network of Somerset County, the Franklin Township Food Bank and other local food pantries serving Somerset County. That would be a 10 percent increase from last year, and officials believe the expansion of the online donation campaign will help them reach that goal.
“The nice thing about the online component is that it allows us to now collect fresh food and produce for the food banks and get it out to people,” Knill said.
Visit www.CurbingHunger2014.org to select and purchase food to donate; food items will be delivered directly to the local food bank by Amp Your Good, which is hosting the online drive on its website.
“Chuck sets these really big goals,” said Marie Scannell, executive director of the Food Bank Network of Somerset County. “And through the partnerships we have with Somerset County and the community, it all somehow happens.”
Scannell’s organization services some 1,500 families per month, a number that has doubled in the past year.
“We rely on this to help us get through the summer,” she added.
Typically, food supplies at food banks start to drop off in the summer, with regular donors going on vacation, schools closed, and no big holiday events happening that potential donors can rally around to support collection efforts. When the Rev. Stephen Rozzelle took note of this, he approached county government officials two decades ago about doing a collection in June using county recycling workers, and the Curbing Hunger program was born. Since then, more than 500,000 pounds of food have been collected just in Somerset County.
Orange is the key color for the campaign because bright-orange plastic bags were tied onto the recycling cans of residents in May. During June, residents are asked to fill those bags with food supplies and leave them at the curb for pickup with their recyclables, by county recycling workers who then will deliver the items to the food banks.
High on the list of needed items are Parmalat milk, canned meat and fish, “meals-in-a-can” such as pasta, stews and meaty soups, canned tomato sauce, canned fruits, and peanut butter and jelly in plastic jars. Perishables and food in glass containers cannot be accepted.
“From my perspective, no one in America should go hungry because of want,” said U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance, R-N.J., 7th District, one of the speakers at the kickoff. “Yet, in the congressional district I have the privilege to represent, one of the most affuent in the country, it is happening, and that is not tolerable.”
That is why the Curbing Hunger program is so important, he added.
“This is the shared responsibility of government entities with the private sector and nonprofit sector,” working together to make the difference, he said.
“Somerset County has been proud to collaborate with Curbing Hunger Inc. to conduct this annual food drive that benefits so many people in our communities,” Freeholder Director Patrick Scaglione said. “I want to thank Curbing Hunger Inc., St. Mark’s Episcopal Church and the many other community supporters of this very successful program, as well as our recycling and public works crews who do the curbside food collections each June.
“Hunger in our community is very real,” Scaglione said. “We hope everyone can work together to alleviate the shortage of food we have.”
At some point in the future, Knill said that he hopes this program will be nationwide.
“But right now,” he added, “we’ve got New Jersey.”
Paul C. Grzella is general manager/editor of the Courier News, Home News Tribune and MyCentralJersey.com. 908-243-6601; pgrzella@MyCentralJersey.com.
At a glance
Somerset County residents can place canned food donations in bright-orange plastic bags — or in any other plastic bags marked with the word ‘food’ — and leave them at the curb on regularly scheduled recycling collection days now through June 27.
The Curbing Hunger campaign is a joint effort of the Somerset County Board of Freeholders, the county Recycling Center, county and municipal public works departments, the Food Bank Network of Somerset County and Curbing Hunger. Financial supporters of the program are the Courier News, MyCentralJersey.com, the Star-Ledger and Norris, McLaughlin & Marcus P.A. The Somerset Patriots also support the program through scoreboard announcements and by hosting Curbing Hunger Night at TD Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater, slated for June 3. Those who bring in donations will receive two-for-one vouchers to a future game. In the event of rain, that event will be rescheduled, officials said.
Curbside donations also are collected year-round. County residents can use one of the orange bags or any plastic grocery bag to place canned food at the curb on any of recycling collection days throughout the year. In addition, donations of non-perishable food also are accepted at the First Saturday of the Month recycling drop-offs conducted at the Somerset County Recycling Center at 40 Polhemus Lane in Bridgewater.
For more information or to donate items through the online campaign, visit www.CurbingHunger2014.org.