BEYOND THE CHECK: Farmers Against Hunger Delivers Despite Challenging Conditions

NJ Agricultural Society’s Farmers Against Hunger program (FAH), a 2021 Impact100 South Jersey General Operating Grantee, has been working through a perfect storm of national challenges at the local level. Meeting the needs of struggling farmers, families, and community organizations facing a pandemic, inflation, and drought made their programs even more critical to the region. But they have shown up and flexed to meet the demand.

New Jersey farmers faced so many obstacles this year and many were not able to offer the amount of surplus crops that they have in the past. Abnormal climate conditions, such as early spring followed by spring frost that damaged plantings, combined with drought later in the season, made growing conditions extremely challenging. On top of that, inflation, which affected fuel costs for tractors and water pumps used for irrigation as well as fertilizer, forced the farmers to sell what might otherwise have been surplus in order to keep their farms operating. Despite these obstacles, FAH was able to flex and work with farmers in other areas of the state who did not experience the same environmental conditions as South Jersey and managed to redistribute 302,847 lbs. of gleaned food throughout the year. Combined with produce donated by grocery warehouse vendors, FAH rescued over one million pounds of food this year to date!

Impact100 SJ member Valerie Buickerood (above) recently spent a morning at the FAH Laurel Run Land Stewardship Facility in Delran packing bags of produce to be distributed to one of the 85 hunger relief agencies that FAH supplies with farm fresh food. Their large crew of volunteer “gleaners” send the pallets of fruits and vegetables to their warehouse and local grocery distributors donate produce that won’t make it to the store shelves (633,348 pounds this year).  Then volunteers package generous 15-20 lb. bags of produce for families throughout South Jersey. Among the many partner organizations FAH works with are: South Jersey Food Bank, Southern Regional Food Distribution Center, and Beacon of Hope Inc.  You can find their full list of partner agencies here.

Mrs. Pastor Darleen Trappier, who owns and operates Beacon of Hope on Mill St. in downtown Mt. Holly, was nominated to attend the White House Hunger Summit this past year. FAH does weekly food distributions on her property, where 8-10 other churches/groups meet to divide up produce. They load up and dispatch all over the county to help those with food insecurity. The Pastor also receives direct donations of produce from FAH on an as-need basis. Beacon of Hope is just one example of the ripple effect FAH’s efficient redistribution system has. The Impact100 South Jersey grant has been used to make these things happen.

Impact100 South Jersey was proud to support FAH with a $50,000 general operating grant in 2021. Those funds have been instrumental in keeping the programs running, but also allowed the organization to build raised beds at their farm in Delran and create a large cooler space, which means they can store more food than they could in the past by renting cooler space. The beds are used for a community gardening program that grows food for distribution, provides a space for volunteers who want to get their hands dirty and grow the food. Moving forward, it will also be used for community gardening educational programs. There are also two bee hives for pollination in partnership with Lou Naylor of Moorestown Honeyworks. Their dream for the site is to have a public garden with self-guided tours, native plants and a sensory garden or food forest.

Gathering statewide resources available from farmers and grocery warehouse vendors is a impactful solution to the food insecurity problem. With this in mind, FAH plans to increase their partnerships on both the food rescue and the distribution sides of the equation and are searching for a second warehouse location to meet the demand.

If you want to get a great workout walking, bending and lifting in the field or in the warehouse, all while helping to feed South Jersey families and rescuing fresh nutritious food, check out NJ Agricultural Society’s Farmers Against Hunger website and sign up for volunteer notifications.

You can also spread the word about FAH to friends and community members who would like to learn how they can help reduce food insecurity and food waste.