HIGHTSTOWN: Jersey Fresh rallies to feed local families during the holidays

By Amy Batista, Special Writer
HIGHTSTOWN – Rise is partnering up to receive Jersey Fresh meals through a project supported by Farm Credit East Cares, the New Jersey Agricultural Society’s Farmers Against Hunger (FAH) program to help feed more than 225 families this holiday.
“This really is the best gift ever,” said Rise Executive Director Leslie Koppel. “We did not expect this donation and feel very lucky that we can provide a wonderful holiday season to our families.”
Rise Food Pantry coordinator Julia Badulescu said that even though its clients are asking for something special for Christmas, Rise couldn’t do it because it just provided 354 family Thanksgiving baskets.
“Because FAH is offering this special opportunity, clients are thrilled,” she said. “We are hoping this will become a tradition and maybe next year we will have more.”
She said that this is especially great because Rise is working with FAH to store the chicken pot pies.
“Our space is just not big enough to do this without their help,” she said. “We still need donations, but our main struggle right now is storage space. We need ongoing donations because we cannot keep large amounts of food on hand. We provide food to 200 families a week.”
Executive Director of New Jersey Agricultural Society and Farmers Against Hunger Program Director Kristina Guttadora said that Farm Credit East Cares is a program that was initiated by Farm Credit East in October 2011.
“This program combines contributions from Farm Credit East, ACA and its employees and coordinates with other organizations in supporting farmers and rural communities in good times and bad through contributions to local, state and regional charitable causes,” she said.
She said that through this effort, chicken pot pies and fruit pies were purchased for 225 families.
“As a strong supporter of New Jersey’s farmers and agricultural industry, the purchase was made locally from Griggstown Farm Market and Lee Turkey Farm,” she said. “Griggstown Farm Market is also donating 70 pecan pies to the project.”
Farm Credit East is a long-time supporter of the New Jersey Agricultural Society and its Farmers Against Hunger program, she added.
“Rise Community Service Partnership was selected as the recipient organization for this project and will be keeping their food pantry doors open extra hours on Monday, Dec. 21, to facilitate this special distribution to the families,” she said.
Ms. Badulescu said for this special distribution the Rise Food Pantry was open on Dec. 21 and then went back to regular hours of distribution on Tuesday and Wednesday from 9 a.m. to noon. For the rest of the year, Rise will be open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday from 9 a.m. to noon on two Wednesday nights each month with the help of St. David’s in Cranbury, from 5 to 7 p.m.
Ms. Guttadora said that Rise and Farmers Against Hunger have built a strong partnership through the years, with Rise sending groups of volunteer gleaners to farms, to help harvest surplus fresh produce, and FAH sending donated fresh produce back to the pantry for distribution.
“The more community volunteers we have to assist with farm gleanings, the more produce we can recover for neighbors in need,” she said. “Rise has become a part of our gleaning family.”
This past season, Lee Turkey Farm, of East Windsor contributed nearly 25,000 of gleaned produce to Farmers Against Hunger, she said.
“This past summer we sent a group of teens to pick corn, many of them were surprised it does not come from a can,” she said. “FAH is our main source of produce and we are thankful and hope to continue to expand our partnership in our future”.