EO forges partnerships to provide free meals and fresh produce to residents

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EAST ORANGE, NJ — The city of East Orange is partnering with the East Orange YMCA, Seashore Food Distributors Inc. and the Community FoodBank of New Jersey to provide free lunches and fresh produce to residents.

The food distribution takes place every Wednesday at noon at the Office of Emergency Management, 402 Springdale Ave.

“When COVID-19 first reared its head, many of our residents were afraid to venture out to the supermarket. We had to quickly set up a grab-’n’-go food distribution network to ensure our residents would not go hungry,” Mayor Ted Green said. “The outpouring of support and generosity from around our area has been overwhelming and teaming up with the YMCA has allowed us to expand our outreach and touch more families throughout the city.”

Prior to partnering with the city, the East Orange YMCA hosted its food distribution at their location on 100 North Arlington Ave., but with the start of camp, space became limited. Newly-appointed YMCA Director Washima Redding reached out to the city to see how the two entities could collaborate.

A natural fit was to connect the Y with the Office of Emergency Management, which had been operating a weekly lunch distribution to accommodate residents on the north side of town.

Now in its third week, the food distribution effort services an average of more than 400 families each week. Every Wednesday, approximately 440 boxes containing 15 to 20 pounds of food are delivered to the Office of Emergency Management from the YMCA and Seashore Food Distributors. The produce is distributed in conjunction with the 200 prepared lunches made available by the Department of Recreation and Cultural Affairs. Each package of food contains lettuce, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, carrots, oranges, plums and melons. The Community FoodBank also provides nonperishable items, including rice, peanut butter, tuna, beans and other canned foods.

“It’s extremely rewarding to not only be able to fill bellies, but to also serve dignity, care and hope for the community, so we really appreciate this partnership,” Redding said.

To maintain current social distancing practices, the city created a process by which residents have the option to either walk-up or drive-through the food distribution event. 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.

The partnership with the YMCA and Seashore Food Distributors will last until the end of August. The YMCA is currently accepting volunteers to help with weekly distribution. East Orange police and fire personnel, as well as members of the CERT team, have been among the volunteers serving the community.

For more information on the food distribution partnership, contact the East Orange Office of Emergency Management at 973-677-8924 or the East Orange YMCA at 973-673-5588.

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