Starting From the Bottom/No Kid Hungry in 07901
Going without basic necessities and food insecurity sound unlikely in an affluent town such as Summit. In 2016 Summit’s Assistant Superintendent reported that 15% of all enrolled students in the Summit Schools are eligible for free or reduced price lunch. The Summit Schools’ administration believes this number is underreported. Three of Summit’s five elementary schools have Title I status. A Title I school receives federal funding due to high numbers or high percentages of students from low-income families. In addition, only one Summit elementary school qualifies for the federally funded breakfast program. All of the Summit schools have students in need of free breakfast.
The Junior League of Summit along with the Connection and the United Way researched the issue of food insecurity and the local agencies who help food insecure families. We gathered key groups (The Interfaith Council, SHIP, the Connection, the YMCA, the United Way, and the Department of Community Programs) and formed No Kid Goes Hungry in 07901, now known as GRACE.
GRACE’s Closet and Family Fun Night
GRACE originally started with GRACE’s Closet. This program connects families identified by teachers, principals, school nurses, social workers, or clergy with the clothing, household items, sports gear, or academic supplies they require. This winter alone we have fulfilled more than 350 discrete requests for seasonally appropriate gear: coats, boots, hats, gloves, and snowsuits.
Over the five Mondays in August families gathered for entertainment and food distribution, dubbed Family Fun Night. Food insecure children and their parents enjoyed movies, cooking, games, yoga, dance, and swimming. Each family received a bag of groceries and a chance to shop the free farm stand of rescued produce. During that month we distributed 136 bags of groceries and 1,000 pounds of fresh produce rescued from the Summit Farmer’s Market.
Weekly Distributions Open in 2016
GRACE’s Refrigerator opened in 2016 on Sunday afternoons at Central Presbyterian Church and Thursday evenings at Christ Church. The refrigerators offer Summit residents free fresh food. This food comes from the farmer’s market, local businesses, and the Community Food Bank.
The Refrigerator now serves an average of one ton of produce, milk, and eggs to an average of 80 families a week, with larger crowds in the summer and on the third week of the month when monthly salaries, pension, benefits dwindle. New households seek assistance each week, but families tend only to go the Refrigerator when in need. Fifteen families who regularly shopped in the past year no longer need GRACE’s assistance.
The Summit Community Garden is growing some of the foods most desired by this food insecure population including cilantro, peppers, and squash, cabbage and lettuce. Kent Place Middle School has also tended to a dedicated a plot in the Community Garden to grow food expressly for the Refrigerator. We accept donations from local farms and personal gardens. The New Providence Victory Garden donates the produce it grows in the town’s public spaces in the summer.
Several local food businesses and restaurants contribute produce, bread, eggs, and prepared food to the community refrigerator. Manhattan Bagels, Batavia, Tito’s, and Marigold’s have regularly donated fresh food.