In Response to COVID-19, Plainfield’s Cross-Sector Partners Collaborate to Address Food Insecurity in Union County

NJHI 2016: Building a Culture of Health in New Jersey – Communities Moving to Action, Round 2 Healthy Plainfield

Emergency food providers have been hard at work during this public health crisis to continuously offer groceries and hot meals to those in need. To support families facing food insecurity, the City of Plainfield and the Healthy Plainfield coalition have collaborated to prepare a list and a map of emergency food providers, including food pantries, soup kitchens, and temporary feeding sites in our community.

The Plainfield Public School District continues to provide meals to children by distributing breakfast and lunch at five schools. Three of the five schools also provide “grab & go” meals from Monday through Friday. Families use a pick-up-and-go option to observe social distancing guidelines. For families participating in the Backpack Program that provides weekend meals for children in need from the Plainfield School District, the United Way of Greater Union County (UWGUC) coordinated three weekends’ worth of meals and distributed them to families in early April. Partnering in this work, the Crescent Ave. Presbyterian Church hosted the distribution site in collaboration with the Plainfield School District. Through a collaboration with UWGUC, the Plainfield Public School District, the Community FoodBank of New Jersey (CFBNJ), and Healthy Plainfield coalition volunteers, a second distribution occurred in early June and provided two weekends’ worth of meals to 300 families who participate in the Backpack Program.

In addition, through a partnership with Amazon Logistics, UWGUC provides weekly food distributions in Union County, North Plainfield and South Plainfield. To date, UWGUC has worked with 21 nonprofits, municipalities, and faith-based organizations throughout Union County to distribute food to organizations who serve their local communities.

For many of these collaborations, the Community FoodBank of New Jersey has been an integral partner in addressing food insecurity. CFBNJ reported 34 Plainfield agencies submitted requests for food throughout March 2020, and a total of 180,000 bagged meals were distributed in that time. ​In April 2020, 11 Plainfield agencies submitted requests for food, and a total of 38,000 bagged meals were distributed. These numbers show how the FoodBank plays a critical role in this important work.

Our Healthy Plainfield partners also opened temporary feeding sites. At these sites, Humanity First and Angels for Action partnered to serve hot meals to more than  1800 families and 500 individuals. In addition, the City’s Restaurant on East Front Street provided Angels for Action with free meals on Tuesdays throughout May 2020. Individual contributions from our community supported this work, and in May these partners helped feed more than 10,000 individuals, including about 2,000 families.

Maritza Martinez, one of our individual coalition members who is involved with both Fundación Internacional de Emprendedores Latinos and the Plainfield Advisory Commission on Hispanic Affairs, together with her family and fellow volunteers, has taken a leadership role in distributing food to Plainfield residents. Together, these partners have provided boxes of food to 100 families.

Another coalition member, the Plainfield YMCA, is partnering with the Community Food Bank of New Jersey, the Rotary Club of the Plainfields and Star Fish Food Pantry to pack and distribute emergency food boxes to individuals in need in our community. These FREE boxes contain five days of shelf-stable food items for one person and fresh fruit and vegetables when available. Food distribution occurs on Saturdays at 1:00 p.m. at four locations throughout the city. On a weekly basis, these partners have distributed 500-600 boxes to residents, seniors and families who cannot leave their homes. To maintain social distancing and protect one another, volunteers are asked to wear gloves and a face mask or cloth that covers the nose and mouth. To learn more about our work, including current volunteer opportunities, connect with our project directors or sign up to help here

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Tania Guaman
United Way of Greater Union County