Summer food drive requests donations for hungry children

Ocean Township — More than one in 10 New Jersey households don’t have reliable access to food, leaving thousands of children hungry every day.

To combat this, Senator Vin Gopal is joining Assembly Members Eric Houghtaling and Joann Downey to host a Food Drive benefiting the Backpack Crew, a program providing healthy meals and snacks to students in the greater Red Bank area.

Donors are invited to bring non-perishable food items to the 11th Legislative District office at 802 West Park Avenue, Suite 221, during normal business hours from now until August 31. Suggested donations include granola bars, mac and cheese, soup, fun-sized cereal boxes, small plastic jars of peanut butter, crackers, spaghetti and sauce (no glass jars), instant oatmeal packets, and small cans of fruit.

“The Backpack Crew program shows the power of volunteers to combat hunger and help families feed their kids healthy, nutritious meals,” said Gopal (D-Long Branch). “We’re grateful to join its members in serving the hungry families in our communities, and we encourage all of our neighbors to donate and give a child the nutrition they need to learn, play, and grow.”

The Backpack Crew is a ministry of the United Methodist Church of Red Bank dedicated to providing children in Red Bank, Middletown and the surrounding area with food on weekends, when they may not have healthy food available. Founded in the wake of Superstorm Sandy to help struggling families get back on their feet, the Backpack Crew program distributes food-filled backpacks to local school nurses, which are then anonymously given out to students to take home on Fridays. Students then return the backpacks on Mondays to be picked up and refilled by Backpack Crew volunteers.

“We want to help every child reach their potential, whether it’s in school, sports or other activities,”said Downey (D-Freehold), who oversees legislation on programs for needy families as Chair of the Assembly Human Services Committee and who recently joined state leaders for a roundtable discussing means of combating hunger in New Jersey communities. “The first step in doing so is giving them the food and nutrition they need to fuel their bodies and sharpen their minds. The Backpack Crew is doing great work to help these kids and families, and we’re grateful to everyone who is able to donate to this excellent cause.”

“Many of us take a healthy meal or snack for granted, but that’s not true for the 21,000 children in Monmouth County who don’t have enough to eat,” said Houghtaling (D-Neptune), who worked alongside Downey to develop a legislative package to reduce hunger and food waste as Chair of the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources committee, citing data from Fulfill, the food bank serving central New Jersey. “No child should have to go hungry in New Jersey, and through your generosity, we can continue the fight against hunger in our communities.”

For additional information, residents can call the District 11 Legislative Office at (732) 695-3371. More information about the Backpack Crew is also available on their website at BackpackCrew.com.