Facing a mounting obstacle of more mouths to feed and a dearth of resources, the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties takes a bold new direction for ending hunger at the shore.

Carlos Rodriguez, Foodbank Executive Dir., by Rosetta Key Townsquare Media

Executive Director Carlos Rodriguez, in his first initiative since assuming the position earlier this year, outlined a multi-pronged approach that capitalizes on technology and relies on adaptability. The unveiling of the five-year strategic plan took place at the FoodBank's headquarters in Neptune Wednesday. Rodriguez says "this plan helps us ask the hard questions, take a fresh look at what the need across Monmouth and Ocean Counties are and help us to plot a course to make strategic investments and decisions.

Rodriguez says in doing research for the plan, a committee found the top priority of the strategic plan wasn't food, it was in making an investment to help build the capacity of its partner agencies. He says "to make sure they have the right space, the right facilities and the right equipment to be able to get the food the community is so desperately in need of."

Foodbank Monmouth & Ocean, Government Donated Produce

The FoodBank's strategic plan includes:

  • Enabling the hundreds of food pantries in the FoodBank system to receive and store greater quantities of food.
  • Expedite the transfer of nutritious items from food pantries and soup kitchens to people who most urgently need them.
  • Reinforcing the donation stream by tapping new sources of food and money.
  • Establishing a web-based ordering system.
  • Strengthen its Government partnerships. (Expected to be up and running by this Fall)
  • Increase awareness of nonprofit assistance to food insecure households connecting them to resources.
  • Take a stronger role in advocacy that help create policy that helps to end poverty
John P. Curley, Carlos Rodriguez, Serena DiMaso

Rodriguez says in four months he expects to see increased deliveries to Monmouth and Ocean. He says they've already doubled the amount of food it distributes across the Jersey Shore from three million to seven million. "I expect to see more distribution in Ocean County that has unfortunately a higher need with more people in poverty and more low income people disproportionately."

Rodriguez says they're also going to address ways to address the root causes of hunger. "What can we do connect families with important benefits, with important income supports so if they're working, it can really help work pay for them as they go into a better job. Or if they're not working, or disabled, or retired already, what can we do so that they can rely less on food pantries and really strengthen their financial position so that they can enjoy shopping?"

He says they'll be looking to increase the amount of donated food they receive by reaching out to grocery retailers and area farms. He says they'll even be encouraging gardeners to plant a row to donate.

The FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties transfers donations from manufacturers, farmers, retailers, private citizens and the U.S Department of Agriculture to food pantries, soup kitchens, senior centers, domestic abuse victims, daycare centers, after school programs and youth shelter.

Presently, the Monmouth County Library system and County Government facilities have bins in place to take in food donations as part of County Government Month. Library officials are waving late fees as part of its "Food for Fines" Program. Freeholder Serena DiMaso says residents are getting excited about donating and they've had several pickups for collected food already.

WOBM News Bureau Chief Tom Mongelli contributed to this article.

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