Food giveaway helps East Orange residents in time for the holidays

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EAST ORANGE, NJ — On Dec. 23, East Orange gave a helping hand to those in the community in need, just in time for Christmas.

“We have been conducting various food distribution events since March when the pandemic first hit,” Connie Jackson, the city’s public information officer, said on Dec. 24. “Since then, we have distributed tons of food throughout the city and continue to do so on a weekly basis. On Wednesdays, we’ve cultivated partnerships with key agencies to conduct both a daytime and evening distribution event.”

The week of Christmas, the city gave out both food and toys at the East Orange Office of Emergency Management, located at 402 Springdale Ave.

“This is a partnership between OEM and the East Orange YMCA, along with food partners Community FoodBank of New Jersey, Seashore Food Distributors, Grow-a-Row and ARYZTA. Over the past several months, over 10,000 families have been served through this partnership,” Jackson said.

The city also held an evening food distribution event at the 3rd Ward Community Center, located at 120 Rhode Island Ave. According to Jackson, this drive was co-sponsored by Mayor Ted Green, with 3rd Ward Council members Bergson Leneus and Vernon Pullins Jr. The food was provided by the county.

According to Jackson, the partnerships for these initiatives were extensive.

“The OEM giveaway … is coordinated with volunteers from the Community Emergency Response Team and East Orange Fire Department,” Jackson said. “At the evening event, volunteers from various organizations assist with the distribution, including Mayor Green’s fellow brothers from Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, members of the Ted R. Green Foundation, and other community and staff volunteers.”

Jackson discussed the array of food options available for residents.

“It’s a huge variety, ranging from perishable and nonperishable items, canned goods, pasta, dry milk, cereal, lettuce, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, carrots, oranges, plums and melons,” Jackson said. “On some occasions, meat, bread and eggs are also distributed. During Thanksgiving, turkeys also were given out.”

Since it is the holiday season, other items were given away, too.

“Thanks to the generous donations, the city of East Orange has been able to host multiple toy giveaways, and on last Wednesday, Dec. 23, we were able to use a surplus of toys to give out to those who also participated in the food giveaway at OEM. We’ve also distributed coats and PPE to residents,” Jackson said.

“To maintain current social-distancing practices, the city created a systematic process by which residents have the option to either walk-up or drive-through,” she continued. “Residents that choose to pick up their boxes by drive-through will be directed to an access point, at which time their box will be placed in the trunk of their car while they remain inside of the car. Food is distributed on a first-come, first-served basis with only one package per car.”

Upcoming food giveaways will aid even more residents.

“Our food giveaways have been held weekly since the beginning of the pandemic,” Jackson said.

For East Orange Mayor Ted Green, helping residents during a time of difficulty is nothing new.

“East Orange is one city, one community, with one goal, and that goal equals progress,” Green said on Dec. 24. “During this pandemic, we have proved that statement to be true time and time again. This year has been tough for everyone, but obviously, it’s been a lot harder for some than others. As a community, it is important that we rally together and do everything in our power to make sure that our residents have access to the resources, services and supplies that they need. This has truly been a group effort, and I am so grateful for the commitment of our staff, donors and volunteers.”

Photos Courtesy of Connie Jackson