Hunger Free Unity in the Community, formerly known as Hunger Free Bayonne, is looking for ab brick-and-mortar site in the city.
The nonprofit, operated by Stephanie Glover-Wilson, expanded from Bayonne to the entire county amid the pandemic.
Glover-Wilson and another representative of the nonprofit addressed the city council in August.
“We’ve been servicing Bayonne all those years and then COVID hit,” said Richard Cooper, a Bayonne resident and representative of Hunger Free Unity in the Community. “The dynamics changed, and at that point, we had to start traveling throughout the county. We’ve been giving out food every single week, sometimes two to three times.”
Since 2014, Hunger Free Unity in the Community operated as Hunger Free Bayonne under the umbrella of the Bayonne Economic Opportunity Foundation (BEOF). After reorganizing and expanding last year, Hunger Free is now its own 501c3 nonprofit.
The operation is volunteer-based, with no paid positions, distributing food donated by partner companies, including HelloFresh and Costco.
“We support the needs of churches, shelters, and youth centers, as well as hundreds of pounds of food distributed to those in need every Saturday,” Cooper said.
Cooper expressed the need for a dedicated location in the city where Hunger Free could store food and give it on Saturdays.
“The location would be known as where to go every Saturday and we find that it works very well,” Cooper said, referencing dedicated locations for food distribution elsewhere.
According to Cooper, Hunger Free is not asking for financial assistance but might in the future. Now it needs help securing a location.
“We’d like to be able to consider the city of Bayonne a partner with our 501c3 and being able to give out food and maybe purchase food,” Cooper said. “Right now we rely on donations. But there are different programs where we could buy ready-made boxes.”
Assistance with crowd control would help, Cooper said, adding it would be asking too much for a vehicle.
City Council President Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski thanked Cooper for his presentation and Glover-Wilson for her work in Bayonne.
“Stephanie and the entire crew has been doing a phenomenal job for years here, and we would love to welcome back Hunger Free because we all know that food insecurity is a real issue, and the pandemic has only heightened it,” Ashe-Nadrowski said.
Ashe-Nadrowski said there are funds available for Hunger Free through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program administered by the BEOF and directed Cooper and Glover-Wilson to get in touch with BEOF Director Samantha Howard.
“You have the right certifications as a nonprofit,” Ashe-Nadrowski said. “I’m sure [Howard] can work something out because the largest sum of money that she got was for food insecurities.”
Needs administrative approval
Securing a location would be up to Mayor James Davis and the administration side of government, according to Ashe-Nadrowski.
Ashe-Nadrowski continued: “I’m all for it. I’m sure all my council people are 100 percent for it. Unfortunately, we’re not the body that can grant you the permission. We’re not the administrative branch. We’ve been told a number of times how we overstep our bounds by doing that.”
She said she would draft a letter and have the councilmembers who support the idea sign it.
“We’d love to have you,” Ashe-Nadrowski said. We definitely need [Hunger Free] back in Bayonne regularly. The more days that we are giving out food to the people of Bayonne, the better for all.”
Third Ward City Councilman Gary La Pelusa and City Councilman At-Large Juan Perez echoed Ashe-Nadrowski, with Perez adding: “Anything we can do from this side, we will try and help you to get the location.”
Cooper thanked the council for their warm reception and said he would talk to the mayor’s office about Hunger Free’s proposal.
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