A Need We Feed started on October 29, 2012, when Hurricane Sandy devastated several homes and businesses along the New Jersey shoreline. While construction may have rebuilt these structures; A Need We Feed was born and restored the comfort, hope, and confidence in people giving back to their community. Our story isn’t just quite that simple, there were many grass roots initiatives along the way.
"While natural disasters capture headlines and national attention short-term, the work of recovery and rebuilding is long-term." ~ Sylvia Mathews Burwell
In the last eight years, we have grown from a basic foundational organization to a registered 501 3(c) non-profit organization that prepares, packages, and delivers over 11,000 hot meals a year to veterans, children, and families who are in need while partnering with many organizations within the community. A Need We Feed is a family-based organization and giving back to families in our community is paramount. Each year we fundraise and collect over $12,000 in cash and toys for our Christmas toy drive. In the Spring, we provide Easter baskets filled with candy and goodies to many families in addition to offering a full Easter dinner. You will find our organization feeding families, individuals, service members, peer groups, and scout troops for holidays, during bereavement, for celebrations, and when there is a need.
Partnerships are largely what helps us succeed; our partnerships within the community have grown and continue to flourish. Together we join forces with immediate responses when called upon. Some of our partners include organizations like Department of Children and Families. Family Success Center, Seeds of Service, Harbor House, Ocean Mental Health, MA22, Haven Beat the Streets, Recalibrate, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Chef Lou’s Army, and Code Blue. We are always open and looking to grow our partnerships because we strongly believe many hands make light the work.
Today we are setting unprecedented levels of aid to not only our community in need, but also to our foodservice partners by helping to save local restaurants during the COVID 19 pandemic.
Cliff Baker, President & Co-founder
Feeding the Sandy First Responders
During the Sandy rebuilding, I found myself visiting a restaurant the used to be in Toms River, Boston’s, I noticed two military men sitting at the bar looking displaced. Making the connection to my time served in the USN in the late 1980’s through early 1990’s, I introduced myself and struck up a conversation. I discovered that they were here from Kentucky helping to ‘restore the shore’. Thanksgiving was three weeks away, so I asked if they had plans and to my surprise they didn’t. At that moment, it hit me! I invited all of the military and first responders to my home for Thanksgiving. I collected everyone’s information and the realization set in, I had a lot of preparation to bring this to fruition. I needed to find a chef with motivation, connections, and a big heart. I reached out to my good friend Chef Mike Jurusz from Atlantic Bar and Grill.
Next was planning and organizing. Volunteers and donations began to pour in from all over: equipment and supply donations from all the factories I worked with, Food suppliers that Chef Mike worked with sent food, and an old High School friend and Stop & Shop Manager, Mark Blackwell stepped up to get all of his Stop & Shop stores involved. Restaurant customers and industry friends offered whatever we needed, soon we had enough turkey, mashed potatoes, and vegetables to feed 350 people.
The tent went up to seat 100 people in the back yard; the garage was transformed into a buffet line with 35 volunteers ready to serve. All of that changed in a moment when a call came in that martial law was enforced and volunteers working in Seaside were not allowed to cross the bridge. One of the 35 volunteers on hand that day was a Toms River Volunteer Fire Fighter. He worked to get a firetruck that would show up in my cul-de-sac within moments and deliver food to the island. Our team quickly jumped into action and packed up all the food into individual containers, loaded the truck and off they went!
This was the birth of ‘ifthereisaneedwewillfeed.weebly.com’.
Expanding the Feeding
In December 2015, A Need We Feed grew a little larger. My son Jared and his friend were making their first delivery. They knocked on a hotel room door to deliver a meal to a veteran during the Christmas meal delivery. The veteran opened the door with a look of shock, Jared responded with “we are from A Need We Feed, here is a hot meal, Merry Christmas!” The veteran told the boys that they saved his life, he had his pistol locked and loaded and was ready to pull the trigger, ready to end his life. That day Jared and his friend each took a meal, sat down with the veteran, and ate Christmas dinner with him.
It was upon hearing this story that I realized our meals are more than a container of food; these deliveries give people something to look forward to, these random acts of kindness are signs of hope that good things will come.
Immediately we decided Thanksgiving and Christmas meal offerings were just not enough, in 2016 we implemented an Easter feeding and a summer Barbeque. Knowing that we work off of strictly donations, we knew we needed to spread these events out and give ourselves time to generate funds and supplies for the next meal.
Feeding the 'Littles’
In the Fall of 2018, my daughter, Mackenzie, learned through her school that the Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) program was looking for an organization to provide a weekly meal for the ‘littles’. Mackenzie organized a meeting with the school’s charity coordinator, and we discussed an opportunity where we launched our ‘meal and mentor program’. A Need We Feed partnered with local restaurants to get a discounted weekly after school meal. Fast forwarding to 2020, we deliver meals to three Toms River locations; two of the schools are mentored by the BBBS of Ocean County and the third is mentored by the Donovan boys’ basketball coaches and players.
Ocean’s Family Success Center
In the Fall of 2019, our COO Christine Hernandez was introduced through a good friend and MA22 partner, to the Ocean’s Family Success Center in Asbury. Their organization wanted to create a family dinner night. Christine would work to deliver a variety of ingredients provided by a local foodbank from Ocean and Monmouth County to a participating restaurant. The restaurant was then asked to use these ingredients to create a simple, healthy, and delicious meal that could be recreated by the families that were mentored by Ocean’s Family Success Center.
A Need We Feed was called into action once the COVID19 virus pandemic hit the Jersey Shore in early Spring 2020. On top of the business as usual meals and assistance to our community, a rise in demand quadrupled to feed members of our community compounded with a desire to save our restaurant partners who continue to support our mission. Our requests for meals jumped from 200 meals a week to over 800 meals a week. These meals were being delivered to veterans in distress, our BBBS children and their families, our now homebound seniors, the homeless, and our emergency families in need. A Need We Feed took advantage of the opportunity to support our local restaurants by purchasing meals from them weekly and opening a new initiative to ‘Support our restaurants as we help those in need’. Using safe, social distancing methods, we were able to create a win/win for our foodservice family and those in need.