How Fulfill can help you and your neighbors through tough times
This time every year people are full of excitement and anticipation for a good new year ahead with goals and expectations.
It's also the time of year where many food-banks struggle for donations and food collections after the holiday season.
Ebenezer Scrooge taught us to keep Christmas with us all year long, right?
It's the season of giving and we need it to last throughout the year, that's the lessen we learn around Christmas.
"After Christmas or the holidays, everybody forgets that people are hungry," Kim Guadagno, CEO/President of Fulfill and former New Jersey Lt. Governor, tells 92.7 WOBM News. "Unfortunately, because of the pandemic, I don't think they'll forget us this year."
The pandemic has led to thousands losing their jobs at the Jersey Shore alone and it's put a burden on people trying to provide for their families and put food on the table.
"I think we're going to be in this, what I call nightmare, for the people we serve for at least another year, maybe two," Guadagno said. "The economy at the Jersey Shore relies on hospitality and this winter is going to be very dark for those people, a lot of restaurants and hospitality groups are going to close, they're going to start coming to the food banks and pantries and soup kitchens and other programs and they're going to need us more than ever."
To put things into perspective at the Jersey Shore, as bad as things look and feel right now, there are more meek situations than we may realize 10-months into a pandemic and just days into 2021.
"From March 13 until now, we've served 3.2-million more meals per day than we did at the same time last year," Guadagno said. "That tells you that 1 in 6 people in the Monmouth and Ocean County area are hungry or don't know where their next meal is coming from."
If you or someone you know is enduring some tough economic times and need some assistance putting food on the table, all you have to do is ask.
Guadagno says during emergencies, such as the one we're in with the pandemic, there are no rules.
"The rules are...there are no rules. If you come to a food bank or a pantry or a soup kitchen or someplace that we serve and you're hungry...you get fed," Guadagno said. "I don't ask where you live, what's your status or any other questions and the reason is...if you're hungry in New Jersey you are entitled to food and during an emergency especially."
Yes, there is paperwork to fill out and audits to prepare for and she does things by the book but the big, main goal is to make sure you're not going to bed hungry and neither is your family.
"Show up, ask for food and I'll get it to you," Guadagno said. "The most we'll ask for is where you do live and how many people do you have in your family so I can get you enough food and so I can keep track of how many people we're feeding for grant purposes."
Fulfill needs your help as well, if you have the means to do so, in both raising money to buy food and collecting food donations to pas it on and feed other people in the community.
"While our need has increased 50-percent, the cost of buying this food has increased 445-percent...that's not a typo," Guadagno said. "A tractor trailer full of food in February that costs $20,000 now costs $65,000."
It's all going towards helping your family, friends and neighbors.
You can go to Fulfill's website for the numbers and information on how to donate and how to help out.
While Fulfill is largely known for food donations and serving meals to those in need, they offer a variety of other services that can help you and your neighbors get back on your feet again.
In addition to providing food, Fulfill offers kids feeding programs, mobile pantries, culinary training, Tax Refund assistance, SNAP enrollment assistance, help on finding Affordable Healthcare and other hunger fighting programs.
"As we move towards the end of this pandemic, we want to make sure that people have the skills they need to stabilize their families and the support they need," Guadagno said. "It's housing, it's insurance, it's food...and food stamps are not what everybody thinks they are. Food stamps are a fabulous, dignified stigma-free way of getting your family the food that they like and need at the same time. If you're family is in stress and you're making about $15-dollars an hour as a single parent, you're eligible for food stamps."
If you are in need of assistance in addition to or outside of needing food and are looking for help with job training or filling out paper work, Guadagno explains that they will help guide you in the right direction and it starts with them reopening their culinary school.
"We're reopening our culinary school so people gan acquire the skills they need to go back into the workforce and we're helping them find jobs before they leave that culinary school," Guadagno said.
They provide culinary training at Fulfill but with many restaurants and other businesses struggling to make ends meet or shutting down themselves right now because of the pandemic and restrictions by Governor Murphy, options on where you can work seem light but they are there.
"There's still assisted living facilities, there's still hospitals, there's still non-profits like us who are hiring warehouse people," Guadagno said. "Those are the kinds of things that we're going to get back to normal doing while we continue this distribution of food."
It takes a lot of courage to seek help sometimes, especially when you're in unfamiliar territory, but heading out and asking for help with putting food on the table for your family or getting assistance with finding work or filling out paperwork, Fulfill can help guide you to meet your goals.
One of the challenges in providing food or services to people who aren't used to being in a position to ask for help is making them feel comfortable and listening to their needs.
"How do I provide food in a stigma free way where people are comfortable coming and asking for help? What I tell people who come to the door generally upset is everybody has a tough time and you've already taken the first step, you've already asked for help, let us help you! I don't know your name, I'm not going to ask for your name or ask where you live, I'm just going to ask what you need," Guadagno said. "This is the time you can ask for help, this is the time you should ask for help, this is what government should be doing and this is what non-profits like us do."
You can follow Vin Ebenau on Twitter and Instagram and email news tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.