RED BANK – Things are getting a bit rough over at Lunch Break. A food drive with its origins in a single, simple act of giving by the Swisher family of Freehold has resulted in families from all over Monmouth County feuding.
It all began four years ago when the Swishers, concerned about local families that struggle to put food on the table, decided to do something about it. Big time!
Last month, the Swishers held their fourth annual neighborhood food and fund drive and delivered more than 36,000 pounds of food to Lunch Break, along with much needed funds. “Thirty-six thousand pounds of food is incredible,” said Gwendolyn Love, executive director of Lunch Break. “The sad part is that two weeks later we once again have an almost empty pantry. This is because in October we had an unusually high number of food pickups. On average we serve 500 families a month – in October that number escalated to 800 families. Each family is provided a set of bags filled with 36 pounds of nonperishable food. Eight hundred multiplied by 36 amounts to 28,800 pounds of food, or 14.4 tons,” Love said. “At October’s rate, food from the Swisher family drive will last us about five weeks. And, indeed, we have unpacked all their food and the shelves are still not full.
Add to this the expected demand for November. We have already given out 400 holiday bags and, based on those numbers, we estimated about 250 pickups for November. December will be here soon. The numbers are startling.”
The Swisher’s single act of giving at a local level inspired numerous other families to join the fight against hunger, and that same giving spirit will now be amplified exponentially with the launch of the “Family Feud and Fund Drive” in support of Lunch Break. By “family” they mean: a civic organization; a corporation or business (or department within that business that competes with one of the other departments); a school, or team, club, grade or class at the school, competing against each another; a social, youth, trade or political organization; a religious organization (church, synagogue, temple); a neighborhood family that joins forces and challenges another neighborhood family; and, of course, any family that wants to just join the fun.
The Family Feud and Fund Drive runs through Dec. 20. All participants need to do is register their “family” at www.lunchbreak.org by clicking on the Family Feud icon and fill out the registration form. The “family” that raises the most food and funds will win a private dinner for 10 people at Lunch Break.
“Food donations are important,” Love said, “but funds go so much further. Every year a significant portion of our operating budget goes toward the purchase of food, which leaves our shelves faster than it comes in. This year in particular, the demand exceeds the supply.
“We purchase food from national wholesalers, local retailers, and we also purchase food from the food bank, wherever we can get the best deal,” Love said. “If someone donates a box of stuffing that costs $1.50, with that same $1.50 we can bulk purchase two or even three boxes.”
Lunch Break volunteer Debbie Bagnell of Rumson, registered the “Wardell Avenue Warriors Neighborhood Family” for the Family Feud and Fund Drive. Bagnell said that she did so because she was horrified to learn about the statistics regarding hunger.
“In Monmouth County alone 61,920 people are food insecure, meaning they don’t know where their next meal is coming from. What does that say about us as a society, a community, when so many are suffering? she said. “The average cost of a meal at Lunch Break is $2.84. My challenge is for my neighborhood family to raise as much in funds as possible so Lunch Break can plan meals.”
Rick Brandt, organizer of the White Road Cup Charitable Football Game between Little Silver and Shrewsbury residents, also joined the Family Feud. “As members of the community, we all feel strongly that we are responsible for each other and it is important to take care of those who suffer most right here in our own backyard. Many people aren’t aware of the fact that Lunch Break isn’t just about Red Bank – they serve people from every town in Monmouth County and beyond its borders.”
The Dudley family of Ocean Township, San Francisco and Johannesburg, South Africa has also joined the Family Feud under the “Dudley Do Rights” family name. Frank, Brian, Rocky and Sarah
Dudley said their whole family around the world wanted to join the Family Feud and donate because it’s important everyone gives back.
Todd Thompson of Guaranteed Plants and Florist in Middletown signed up his “family” for the Feud by offering a free photo session with Santa on Sunday, Dec. 1; all donations will benefit
Lunch Break. “We all feel it’s very important to shop and support locally … Give local, support local. This is what makes or breaks a
Those sentiments were echoed by Gene and Debbie Trotta of Smart Start Preschool in Fair Haven and Antonina Basile of the Monmouth County School of Rock in Marlboro. They joined forces for the Family Feud, and on Nov. 16 they held, for free admission, an afternoon music session for those with a food donation for Lunch Break.
“November is a time to give thanks and show our gratitude for all we have received,” said Carol Chenin of Koko Fit Club which is teaming up with its Hoboken club to host a holiday food and toiletry drive to benefit Lunch Break. Members who donate five or more items will get a gift certificate to give for a free one-month membership.
Additional information is available by calling Petra Vanderven at Lunch Break at 732-747-8577, ext. 0.