All 5 food banks in N.J. launch initiative with Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield

Earlier this month, New Jersey’s five food banks — the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, Food Bank of South Jersey, Fulfill, Mercer Street Friends and NORWESCAP — partnered with Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey at an event to launch a new signature initiative, “Growing Healthy Pantries.”

This initiative is made possible by a $200,000 investment from Horizon through its philanthropic arm, the Horizon Foundation for New Jersey, to help build the capacity
of food pantries throughout the state and address the need for food distribution in New Jersey to focus on choice and nutrition.

The first phase of this 18-month pilot initiative will focus on the development of a toolkit to provide local pantries with the knowledge, resources and framework to develop nutrition policy, increase healthy food options and provide essential wraparound services that address the factors that lead to individuals and families experiencing food insecurity. If the pilot phase is successful, phase two will focus on engaging other partners and funders and on spreading the model statewide.

“By focusing on health and choice, we can help our neighbors in need live active lives while affording them the dignity of being able to shop the way they would in a grocery store,” Carlos Rodriguez, president and CEO of the Community FoodBank of New Jersey stated.

“This exciting, new initiative with the Horizon Foundation of New Jersey goes boldly beyond building nutrition awareness,” said Fred C. Wasiak, CEO and president of the Food Bank of South Jersey. “Together, we are empowering our neighbors throughout the state to create positive outcomes for healthier tomorrows.”

“This year, Fulfill has committed to having 60% of the food we distribute to our pantries be either produce, protein and dairy. We know that these foods are the ones most requested, and they are also the most nutritious and most expensive — which makes them the hardest to afford on a limited budget. All people should have access to these foods,
so that their families are eating as healthy as possible,” Triada Stampas, CEO and president of Fulfill, said.

“In a very special way, food brings people together. Food banks and pantries do more than provide nutrition. Mercer Street Friends’ food bank opens doors that allow us to coordinate comprehensive supports for students and provide resources for parents,” Courtney Matlock, Mercer Street Friends’ chief development and marketing officer, stated.

“A healthier New Jersey starts with good and healthy food. The tens of thousands of New Jerseyans who rely on the nearly 1,000 food pantries across the state that are served by these five food banks will now have new resources, information and tools to help them become healthier and more food secure,” Jonathan Pearson, Horizon’s director of corporate social responsibility and the executive director of the Horizon Foundation for New Jersey, said.