EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Richard Uniacke is not looking to overhaul the Community FoodBank of New Jersey-Southern Branch’s operation but rather look at ways to improve it.
“I’m not coming in here to make sweeping changes,” said Uniacke, 37, of Clark. “I raise the question all of the time: why do we do it like this? Maybe it is the best way to do something, maybe it isn’t. That is what I’m looking at.”
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In early January, Uniacke was named vice president of the Southern Branch, replacing long-time Executive Director Evelyn Benton as head of the facility. Benton is no longer with the organization.
Julia Kathan, director of the public relations and communications for the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, said she could not go into specifics about the reason for the change because it’s a personnel matter. Benton spent 16 years as executive director before leaving in 2009 for family reasons. Benton then returned to the run the facility in February 2014.
The Black Horse Pike facility is part of the Community FoodBank of New Jersey organization. The group distributes 43 million pounds of food a year to more than 1,000 nonprofit programs, as well as more than 400 programs served by its Partner Distribution Organizations.
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Since the end of last year, the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, based in Hillside, has undergone several changes in its leadership, including Debra Vizzi replacing Kathleen DiChiara, founder of the organization, as chief of executive officer.
Uniacke has been with the food bank for nearly 15 years. During his tenure, he has worked in fundraising and in marketing.
“Because we are so much smaller than the Hillside location, it allows us to be (a) proving ground for ideas,” Uniacke said. “We can decide to test new distribution models and create operational efficiencies that can be transferred to our cooperate headquarters and our network of partner charities. ”
Uniacke takes over at a time when the area’s economy continues to be in flux. The closing of four Atlantic City casinos left more than 8,000 people without jobs. And that has led to a strain on the Community FoodBank of New Jersey-Southern Branch, which is struggling to meet an 11 percent increase in demand, food bank officials have said.
“We have situations of struggling households and struggling families that are very different than anything that North Jersey has,” Uniacke said.
One of Uniacke’s goals during his time at the Southern Branch is to develop a way to get allergy-friendly foods to those in need.
“It's something that is near and dear to my heart,” Uniacke said, adding that his 9-year-old son has food allergies. “What does a family do who is struggling to keep food on the table and has a child with food allergies? What is available to them often is more expensive. If you are struggling, what happens?”