EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — It’s a good start to the week at the Community FoodBank of New Jersey when a 16-wheel tractor trailer shows up.
On Tuesday morning, a 32,000-pound delivery of donated chicken products arrived at the loading dock behind the distribution center on the Black Horse Pike.
While the automated pallet jack operators worked diligently to unload and store the 1,500 boxes containing breaded chicken tenders, the staff at the food bank knew it would only be a matter of days until the food would be distributed to thousands of local recipients.
The donation was a coordinated effort by the Professional Chefs Association of South Jersey, food bank board member Beverly DiMeglio and Tyson Foods, the world’s second largest processor and marketer of chicken, beef and pork products.
“Tyson has given this donation for the past 15 years,” said Colette Kraus, food sourcing manager for the food bank. “Our focus at the Community FoodBank is to help feed the people of South Jersey nutritious food, so the donation of chicken — a protein — is one of our main objectives to distribute to needy families in Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland counties.”
According to the food bank, more than 900,000 residents in the state are food insecure, meaning they do not have ready access to a supermarket or reasonably priced, nutritious foods.
“It’s the working class we’re helping because they can’t afford to buy nutritious food,” said Kraus. “They can afford, as we’ll call it, the junk food, but they can’t afford the protein, the vegetables, the dairy products, so we’re trying to help families and children. With the car payment, the insurance, the bills ... they need assistance, and that’s what we’re here for.”
Or as Fredric Belfus of the chefs association put it: “What can’t you do with chicken?”
“Chicken is a very versatile piece of food,” Belfus said. “Between grilling and roasting and baking, chicken soup, chicken salad, there’s hundreds of things to do with chicken.”
The chefs association, the local chapter of the American Culinary Federation, hosts many fundraisers and charity events throughout the year not only to provide money to the food bank but to promote the importance of cooking and preparing nutritious meals. The group recently began its annual Souper Chefs program, in which 75,000 bowls of soup will be cooked by dozens of area chefs.
“We’re really proud to be here and to help out with the community. This is one area where the food bank really shines,” said Kenneth Trout, president of the chefs association.
Trout said South Jersey is still feeling the effects of casino closings and unemployment.
In 2018, the food bank distributed 12 million pounds of food. The Egg Harbor Township facility supplies area kitchens and pantries, such as the Atlantic City Rescue Mission and the Salvation Army, directly and indirectly serving more than 66,000 locals.
“It gives an opportunity for Tyson to give back,” said Jeffrey Duda, regional manager of eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey for Tyson Foods. “This is part of Tyson’s initiatives of feeding families across America. We do this at area food banks across the country, not just in our hometown of Springdale, Arkansas.”