Fulfill donates 5 vans to Monmouth and Ocean County pantry partners

Fulfill, the food bank for Monmouth and Ocean counties, handed over the keys to five brand-new 2023 Ram ProMaster vans this week to pantry operators, which will enable them to complete larger and more frequent retail food pickups, reducing the need for retailers to dispose of excess, wholesome food.

The van purchases were made possible through a New Jersey Food & Hunger Grant.

Over the past six months, Fulfill and its network of partner pantries have been distributing enough food for approximately 1.3 million meals per month. Pantry utilization in Monmouth and Ocean counties has more than doubled since pre-pandemic levels, and remains at an all-time high, up 30% over last year.

In 2023, Fulfill and its network of local distribution agencies distributed more than 17.1 million pounds of food, compared with 3 million pounds in 2001, when the nonprofit organization first moved into its current warehouse.

The five pantries that are now equipped with vans have also been matched with nearby food retailers, allowing them to coordinate larger and more frequent food pickups. This ensures excess food leaves the retailers and makes it to the food pantries, while helping to close the gap on the demand for produce, frozen foods, meats and fresh bakery items.

“During these times of prolonged demand, we can leave nothing on the table,” Triada Stampas, CEO and president of Fulfill, said. “These van donations are a win-win: Our pantry partners need reliable vehicles to be able to bring in good food on a regular basis, and local retailers are able to donate more wholesome food rather than adding to our waste stream. We appreciate the support of the state of New Jersey and particularly that of Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, who understands the complexities surrounding the growing demands on food banks and pantries across our region and the state.”

The five food pantries receiving vans are:

  • Freehold Area Open Door Pantry, Freehold;
  • Faith Community Food Pantry, Bayville;
  • St. Brigid’s Pantry and Kitchen at St. James Episcopal Church, Long Branch;
  • Jackson Women of Today Food Pantry, Jackson;
  • St. Luke’s Toms River Food Pantry, Toms River.

“I am thrilled to take part in this event that equips these five pantries with better transportation vehicles, enabling them to do more, efficiently, in picking up and delivering greater supplies of excess retail food,” Coughlin (D-Woodbridge) said. “I am committed to supporting the food banks and pantries that are helping New Jersey’s families and individuals access what they need to be successful.”

In total, Fulfill has approximately 300 network partners covering Monmouth and Ocean counties. The five partners receiving vans were selected based on their ability to successfully participate in Fulfill’s Enabled Agency Program, their capacity to receive and distribute a higher volume of donated food and their proximity to retail partners. Fulfill’s retail partners are:

  • Aldi locations in Forked River, Freehold, Howell and West Long Branch;
  • BJ’s in Howell;
  • Costco in Morganville;
  • ShopRite locations in Bayville and Long Branch;
  • Stop & Shop locations in Jackson, Howell and Whiting;
  • Target locations in Eatontown, Howell and Manalapan;
  • Trader Joe’s in Freehold;
  • Walmart in Howell;
  • Wegmans in Manalapan;
  • Whole Foods in Marlboro.

The vehicle grants represent a major investment in supporting a strong pantry network, which is core to Fulfill’s strategy to build food security in Monmouth and Ocean counties. Fulfill has made grants to its pantry partners in response to their capacity needs since 2013.

“Our strategic plan calls for us to increase our warehouse capacity, and we will undertake a capital campaign to help us meet this fundraising goal,” Stampas said. “The community need for food keeps growing and we must be in a position to keep up with the demand. A larger warehouse with more storage for fresh produce and meats will enable us to provide more diverse food offerings that are critical aspects of healthy diets.”