IRVINGTON, NJ — Due to COVID-19, residents in many communities have suffered a great deal due to loss of employment and financial hardship. Luckily for Irvington, the Irvington Education Association is here to help. On April 3, the IEA held a walk-up and drive-up food distribution event in the Irvington High School parking lot for those facing food insecurity.
IEA treasurer and Pride Chairperson Lauren Greenfield told the Irvington Herald that the organization saw great need in the community during the IEA’s first food giveaway on Nov. 7, prompting the organization to return with even more supplies on April 3.
“The IEA, which is filled with teachers, secretaries, security, child study team and guidance counselors that work in the Irvington Public Schools, we’ve gotten together a Pride grant through NJEA and we have purchased over $5,000 worth of items to give to the community today,” Greenfield said on April 3. “We held a food giveaway in November, right before Thanksgiving, and we saw that there was just a need. So, during COVID, we wanted to see what we could do for our community.”
Each bag given to those in need contained items such as cereal, rice, pasta, pasta sauce, butter, oil, mixes, paper towels, tomatoes, peppers, asparagus, lettuce, carrots, onions and potatoes.
“This is our second time doing this. We’re looking to keep going twice a year,” Greenfield said. “We had a preregistration for 150 families, and that’s what we have here today for 150 families. There were 100 last time. Our expectations are to help as many families as we can. We’ve tried to get staples that people needed in this time. We’ve gotten fresh eggs, fresh ground turkey, we’ve gotten paper towels, butter, oil — we were really trying to help them with a little bit something extra for this time of year.”
IEA is a dues-paying union and funded this food giveaway with the NJEA grant.
“But we did have help from the village ShopRite in Newark,” Greenfield said. “They gave us a large discount to purchase the items and helped us with that, as (did) R.J. Laurino Farm; they’ve supplied all of the vegetables for us.”
According to IEA President Michael Byock, the union answered a call to action.
“We’re having our second food giveaway, where we’re trying to help the community during this time, especially with the upcoming Easter holiday, where we try to give residents some fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as some consumables, to make sure that the people in our neighborhood are taken care of,” Byock said on April 3. “I’m hoping that the people of Irvington see that the teachers, the certified staff, the secretaries and security guards are here for them. We’re here to help them. We want them to know that we are always here for their kids, and we’re here for the families as well.
“During the pandemic, we know that many people, even our own people, are having a hard time with money, with food, and with feeding their families,” he continued. “We wanted to help, especially at a time like around Easter to make it a little bit easier for them.”
NJEA secretary treasurer Steve Beatty, who was also in attendance, agreed with Byock.
“This is a great event because communities are about our associations working with our partners, and this is just an example of how deep that goes and the importance of it,” Beatty said on April 3.
Photos by EmilyAnn Jackman