Princeton, NJ nonprofit brings meals directly to the food insecure
PRINCETON — Last January, Isabelle Lambotte launched a new nonprofit organization with the intent to find a more sustainable way to feed the food insecure in the Princeton area.
Over many years working with local food pantries, she became disappointed at the lack of good, fresh produce available to these individuals and families.
But just two months into the existence of Share My Meals, the COVID-19 pandemic completely changed the business model Lambotte had designed.
Suddenly, many of the suppliers who provided the group with meals free of charge had to close, and while some did cook off their remaining inventory for free, that didn't last for long.
Through vigorous fundraising, however, Share My Meals was able to purchase meals, at cost, to keep up its service to more than 150 families, and more than 850 people, in and around Princeton.
In the organization's first 16 months, even through a pandemic, Lambotte said they distributed 70,000 meals.
And the COVID challenges resulted in two relative positives: longer-lasting relationships with those meal suppliers, and an emphasis on getting food directly to people instead of waiting for the people to come to them.
Some in need just recently fell on hard times due to pandemic shutdowns, and to bring food to their homes discreetly, Lambotte said, helps lessen their embarrassment.
"We have seen a growing population of food insecure people, and we were really proactive searching for the people who are, I would say, the 'new poor,'" she said.
Also, this more direct model is better able to benefit senior citizens, those who are sick, or those without access to a car to drive to a pantry.
"We reached out to different, other organizations, to the churches, to the affordable housing communities, and all these kinds of organizations to make sure that we could reach out to the people," Lambotte said.
As Lambotte seeks to return Share My Meals to its original intentions as of the beginning of 2020, she is seeking more logistical and organizational support. To find out more or to get involved, visit sharemymeals.org.