Written by Karen Swartley
In 2021, NJ Agricultural Society’s Farmers Against Hunger (FAH) program was awarded a $50,000 grant from Impact100SJ. The mission of the NJ Agricultural Society (NJAS) is to preserve and enhance agriculture, farming and related activities and businesses in New Jersey through educational, informational, and promotional programs. FAH is the largest signature program of the NJ Agricultural Society. Its specific focus is to connect healthy food from farms to families and, in doing so, reduce food waste by helping farmers and wholesalers share their surplus produce with those in need. The Impact100 South Jersey grant helped establish their Laurel Run Land Stewardship Center in a former farm building that includes a large food storage cooler located on three acres of land.
Over the past 26 years, FAH has expanded its donor base, truck fleet, and volunteer network. Today, FAH collects an average of 1.5 million pounds of fresh, nutritious produce annually from more than 60 gleaning and donor farm partners, grocery stores, and wholesale produce companies, and transports it to more than 60 community organizations. FAH has also begun to work with a NJ-based dairy farm to transport much-needed milk to a major hunger relief organization in the Trenton area. This is a new and exciting venture that they look to grow so that they can reach more communities to provide milk as well as sources of protein (e.g., meat and fish) to build upon their solid produce donation base.
NJAS understands that food insecurity is not only about a lack of adequate supplies of food, but a lack of nutritious foods, i.e., nutritional insecurity. Therefore, while its FAH program works to make large volumes of fresh foods available widely, it also works increasingly to:
- Collaborate with farmers and local hunger relief organizations in NJ to explore and implement new initiatives that expand on the varieties of fresh foods available to those in need
- Address the larger meaning of food insecurity, i.e., a lack of food availability generally, lack of nutritious foods specifically, and lack of knowledge of how to acquire nutritious foods on a limited budget
- Tell the stories of the NJ’s farmers and the impact of their work and goodwill, thereby encouraging new gleaning farm partnerships and connections between farms and local communities
On March 1st, NJAS welcomed Newell Thompson as the new executive director. Having spent a large part of his career in publishing and his recent involvement at The Decency Foundation, an organization dedicated to providing support and funding for small business farmers to build on-farm, micro-processing operations and connect local community food networks, Newell’s marketing experience and current work with farmers give NJAS a leader who will provide a fresh perspective and ideas to grow NJ Agriculture Society’s voice and value at this critical time.
Here are some ways members of Impact100 South Jersey can continue to support the good work they do:
Reusable Bag Drive (June 1-8, 2023)
FAH is in need of reusable shopping bags, in any condition. New and gently used canvas or plastic bags will be used to pack produce that will be distributed to families that are food insecure. Older bags will be used to collect produce in the fields by volunteers gleaning.
To donate, please drop bags off at one of the homes of one of these members:
- Karen Swartley, 241 Mountwell Ave, Haddonfield – collection box by front door
- Sue Polikoff, 4 Galloping Hill Road, Cherry Hill – collection box by front door
If neither address is convenient, please email Karen Swartley at email@example.com to arrange a pickup.
- Participate in on-farm gleaning events and packing events at the Delran site to prepare large volumes of food for distribution. Online sign-up for gleaning volunteers is available at: Volunteer – New Jersey Agricultural Society (njagsociety.org) or by contacting Sophia Buckalew at firstname.lastname@example.org
- The NJ Agricultural Society and FAH are looking for skill-based volunteers in an advisory capacity with backgrounds in Fundraising and Grants, Social Media, Marketing, Event Planning, and PR and Community Relations. Please contact Lori Thompson at email@example.com if you would like to learn more about connecting with them.