ESSEX COUNTY, NJ — A big green bus is about to become the public face of the MEND Hunger Relief Network, bringing the message of healthy food for all to local streets.
Partnering with the Junior League of the Oranges and Short Hills, MEND has outfitted a former school bus with a new color scheme and interior shelving, transforming it into a mobile food pantry and food collection vehicle. Fittingly, the brightly painted bus is named the “Green Bean.”
MEND, a nonprofit working to end hunger in Essex County, will deploy the Green Bean as the focal point for local food drives, spurring community members to “stuff the bean” with specific items that are difficult for food pantries to obtain, but are often requested by clients — such as low-sugar cereal, shelf-stable milk and peanut butter — as well as hearty fresh foods. Once packed, the Green Bean will deliver the food to the 17 pantries that make up MEND’s hunger relief network throughout Essex County. The Green Bean will also distribute produce donated by area farms and purchased from The Community FoodBank of NJ, eliminating some of the logistical challenges pantries face in obtaining and transporting fresh food.
The Green Bean was formally unveiled on Saturday, May 12, at the East Orange YMCA’s Healthy Kids Day. Filled with food donated by JLOSH, the Green Bean distributed healthy items to families participating in the event.
The Green Bean will help bring MEND closer to its goal of making fresh and healthy food available to all, especially the 17 percent of the Essex County population that is food-insecure.
“We are so excited to be putting the Green Bean to work,” said Robin Peacock, executive director of MEND. “Increasing access to healthy foods has been a key mission of MEND’s for the past two years, and with the Green Bean, we are taking a big step forward in that plan.”
“Addressing food insecurity in our service area is at the very core of our mission,” JLOSH President Rosemary Mattson said. “We are delighted to partner with MEND on this innovative and exciting project. MEND has rolled out both a practical tool and a cheerful bright green beacon, which will no doubt draw attention to the very serious matter of fighting hunger and improving nutrition in our neighborhoods.”
Bringing the Green Bean to life has been a community effort. JLOSH took on the design of the bus, coordinating the installation of shelving and storage bins with local contractor Brinton Brosius, as well as the exterior look of the bus with G-1 Graphics. JLOSH also secured free parking. Group One Investments LLC helped get the process started by donating the school bus, while Kings Food Markets provided funding to get the bus registered, insured, painted and in good working order, and The Hyde & Watson Foundation provided funding for the bus equipment and signage.