By Alison Bitterly
RED BANK – Lunch Break, the borough-based soup kitchen and food pantry, will be hosting Foodstock – a food drive that will feature live entertainment, children’s activities, refreshments and more. The event will be held noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 19, at the Red Bank Middle School, 101 Harding Road.
The aim of Foodstock is to help fill the shelves at Lunch Break with food for the summer, traditionally the hardest time for food banks and pantries to gather donations from the community.
Foodstock began last fall with the Swisher family of Freehold Township. The family held a Foodstock event in their backyard and collected more than 13,000 pounds of food – filling a truck from floor to ceiling with food – for Lunch Break.
Event organizers hope to recreate that success on a larger scale with Foodstock 2012. In the weeks leading up to May 19, schools, churches, and other groups will collect nonperishable food items. Those items will be brought to Foodstock where they will be weighed for a running count of the donations.
Lunch Break Executive Director Gwendolyn Love said individuals and families are welcome to bring items independently – any amount of nonperishable food is welcome, although healthy, low-sodium food is preferred. Love hopes that the event will help familiarize the community with Lunch Break and its mission.
“We want to remind people that we’re here,” Love said, “and perhaps inspire others to get involved.”
Although there are many dedicated Lunch Break volunteers and contributors, during the summer season the pantry shelves are often sparse. As Love says, “It is very expensive to keep the shelves stocked during the summer months.” She believes that, “as a community, we will be able to make a big impact.”
Items that are particularly needed for the pantry include: condiments, jelly, peanut butter, tuna, pasta, canned pinto beans, baked beans, canned applesauce, canned fruit, and fruit cocktail.
Foodstock 2012 will feature refreshments supplied by Super Foodtown and Sickles Market. Entertainment will include live music from four bands and a DJ. Aspiring musicians from Red Bank’s School of Rock will be among those on stage. There also will be a clown and face-painting for children and a demonstration of a typical Lunch Break cooking class by Roseanne Monroe.
Volunteers and clients of Lunch Break are encouraged to spend the afternoon enjoying the music, food, family, and friends.
Lunch Break also thanks Foodstock’s co-sponsors: The Bitterly Group at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, OceanFirst Bank, Lowry’s Moving Service and Move for Hunger.
Lunch Break was established in 1983 when community members began serving hot lunches in the basement of St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Red Bank to combat hunger in Monmouth County. As the organization began to expand and develop, it relocated to 121 Drs. James Parker Blvd. and has remained there ever since.
To this day, Lunch Break provides those in need with “life’s basic necessities,” food, clothing, and fellowship. As part of its mission statement, Lunch Break promises to “serve everyone with compassion and dignity.”
Over the past few years, Lunch Break’s role in the community has grown significantly. Love notes that this is largely due to the struggling economy, which has detrimentally affected many families in the area. From 2008 to 2011, the number of hot meals served increased by 35 percent, the number of clothing pickups by 116 percent and the number of food pantry pickups by a whopping 523 percent.
Lunch Break has expanded to meet this increased demand. Several programs have been added to the organization’s roster in recent years, including a weekly cooking class for clients and Saturday brunches hosted by local churches.
Lunch Break can be reached at 732-747-8577, its website at www.lunchbreak.org or its Facebook page.