Feeding Families in Greater Cumberland Here and Now

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More than 100 volunteers packed 120,000 meals on Saturday, April 14, for distribution through food banks to local families. It happened at the Rotary Club of Vineland’s Annual Hunger Project held at the Vineland Salvation Army Building.

In less than an hour, the energetic volunteers measured, mixed, sealed and boxed the packets for delivery to churches, social agencies, and shelters in greater Cumberland County.

The workers learned their tasks quickly and then efficiently put the meals together, even taking brief breaks to dance at their tables to loud funk and rock tracks. The group worked in teams and competed for fun to see who combined the meals the fastest.

Each of the 20,000 Red Lentil Jambalaya meals can feed a family of six.

Rotarian Gail Marino did most of the recruiting of scores of Rotary members and volunteers from other organizations to do the work.

“There was a tremendous outpouring from the community wanting to volunteer,” she said. “Everybody was anxious to help our neighbors who need it.”

Rotary partnered with Feeding Children Everywhere, a worldwide organization that empowers groups like Rotary to assemble these meals for hungry children.

Feeding Children Everywhere provided all the ingredients for the nutritious, ready-to-eat Jambalaya after Rotary raised more than $10,000 from local sources to support the project.

Vineland Rotary Club vice president Frank Rumick did most of the fundraising.

“Getting the donations went as smoothly as I expected,” he said. “We had large and small contributions—I don’t think a single person turned me down.” He used mostly a face-to-face approach.

“Sometimes I got the check right then, sometimes they mailed it in, or sometimes I had to go back to get it,” he added.

The group in the spacious garage behind the Salvation Army building was a cross section of the community, including representatives from Big Brother Big Sisters of Cumberland/Salem, Rotary Club of Tri-County, Employees of Bay Atlantic Federal Credit Union, Cumberland County College Rotaract Club, and CCTEC Interact Club.

Even though Feeding Children Everywhere usually ships its meal packets around the world to countries like Haiti and Kenya, this food is being distributed exclusively locally to help food insecure families right here.

An individual serving of Jambalaya, which contains rice and vegetables along with lentils, provides 15 grams of protein and 11 of fiber with just a trace of sugar—a strikingly nutritious combination.

In the U.S., as many as one child in five goes to bed hungry, according to Feeding Children Everywhere representative Rachel Wilson of Dallas, who he quickly trained the volunteer workers at the event and then organized the workflow.

She told the assembly, “Feeding Children Everywhere is a social charity that empowers and mobilizes the most awesome people like yourselves to package healthy meals for children and their families.”

Rotary past president Susanna Philippoussis brought the concept of the Hunger Project to the club last year. She learned of it thorough her daughter, who was a volunteer when a Greek Orthodox Church in Camden County did it.

“I thought it was such a phenomenal thing to bring back to Cumberland County,” she said. “To have this many people come out to participate in putting these packets together—what a great day of fellowship.”

The local Hunger Project food pantries include: Vineland, Bridgeton and Buena Salvation Armies; Casa Prac, Vineland; Bethany Grace Church, Bridgeton; St. Vincent DePaul, Vineland; Parish of Holy Cross/Pope Francis Food Pantry, Bridgeton; Family Shelter Church of Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church of Bridgeton, Bridgeton; Community FoodBank of NJ – Southern Branch; and Millville Housing Authority, Millville.

“Having the food stay local made all the difference in the world for getting the financial support,” said Rumick.

Feeding Children Everywhere has distributed 73 million meals and impacted 50 countries. The total volunteers so far number almost 500,000. 

Rotary is an international organization of more than 1.2 million business, professional, and community leaders. There are 33,000 Rotary clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical areas. Clubs are nonpolitical, nonreligious, and open to all cultures, races, and creeds. The Vineland organization meets on Tuesdays at 12:10 p.m. at Ramada Vineland. For more details, visit vinelandrotary.com or e-mail the club at info@vinelandrotary.com.

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