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United Way and Volunteers Address Childhood Hunger

United Way joins with Gannett on Make a Difference Day

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On the weekend when many were preparing for the potential arrival of Hurricane Sandy, more than 150 area volunteers in Morris and Somerset counties made some time to also help feed the bodies and minds of local children facing food insecurity.

These volunteers joined with United Way of Northern New Jersey and two Gannett media companies to participate in Make A Difference Day, the most encompassing annual day of helping others across the country, created 20 years ago by USA Weekend Magazine.

With the support of a $10,000 grant from the Gannett Foundation, United Way organized healthy food and book drives, called Feeding the Body and Mind, to address childhood hunger in Morris and Somerset counties. Partnering with the Courier News and Daily Record, the drives supported a total of 1,000 children served by the Food Bank Network in Bridgewater and Interfaith Food Pantry in Morris Plains.  

“We thank the Gannett Company and our volunteers for recognizing the importance of investing in our communities and the health and wellness of our children,” said United Way of Northern New Jersey CEO John Franklin. “We couldn’t do this work without the help of both our corporate partners and dedicated volunteers.”

Throughout the month of October, United Way and the two media companies collected healthy foods and books for children in kindergarten through fifth grades. On Make a Difference Day – October 27 -- volunteers created weekend packages for each child with breakfast, lunch, snack, and drink items. United Way also thanks the more than two dozen organizations that held drives, including Bridgewater Cub Scout Troop 64, Jazzercize of Hillsborough, Pfizer, Girl Scout Troops 60727 and 60748, and Bridgewater-Raritan High School.

“This touched my heart,” Bridgewater resident Christine Crandall told the Courier News while volunteering at the Food Bank Network. “The impact is enormous. When I walked in here, I was amazed by what I see. A family came in for food, and I saw firsthand who we are helping. It’s humbling that I can do so little but help somebody so much.”

Across the state, the number of households with children unable to afford life’s necessities grew by 61 percent during the Great Recession, according to the United Way ALICE Report.

The report also shows that more than one-quarter of both Morris and Somerset county households are struggling to afford the basics, including the costs of food. ALICE, a United Way acronym that stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, represents working individuals and families who are working, but aren’t able to keep up with the state’s high cost of living. 

“Despite the appearance of affluence in our region, there are children here who go to bed hungry at night,” Franklin added. “One of the best investments for the long-term health of our communities is ensuring our children go to school well-fed and ready to learn.”

Click here for more information about United Way’s ALICE Report.

Click here to find out how to become a volunteer in your community. 

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