MEND Launches Fresh Food Hub in Orange to Distribute Healthy Food in Essex County

The MEND team with Sweet Pea giving props to Impact100 Essex for their support. Pictured: Rick Wessler, Robin Peacock, Kate Cahill and Jabbar Abdi

Meeting Essential Needs with Dignity (MEND) is proud to announce the recent launch of its Fresh Food Hub with the funds from a transformative $120,000 grant from Impact100 Essex.  MEND is using the 4,000 sq. ft. facility in Orange as a centralized location from which it will source, transport, refrigerate, pack, and distribute more fresh and healthy food to food insecure people throughout Essex County, NJ, including in South Orange and Maplewood.

In addition to using the Impact100 Essex award to partially fund the physical space, MEND also purchased a cargo van, dubbed “The Sweet Pea,” to help with additional food sourcing and food transportation needs. The van complements the “The Green Bean,” a converted school bus already used for community outreach, large-scale food drives, and free farmers market-style distributions at pantry sites.

Addressing effects of COVID-19 and increased food insecurity

With COVID-19 dramatically increasing the logistical challenges already facing emergency food providers, and the ongoing need for greater fresh food access in our community, the Hub launch was accelerated.

MEND’s Executive Director, Robin Peacock said, “We are thrilled to have this space! The increasing demand for healthy food has long been raised by the pantry managers as an issue they’d like MEND support, given their own logistical challenges. The new Hub will help us expand our collaborations with fresh food partners and significantly increase the amount of fresh food the pantries and other organizations can distribute.”

Jabbar Abdi, Chairman of the MEND Board of Trustees, added, “With the intense spike in hunger across Essex County, and more people turning to MEND pantries for support, MEND has had to increase our volume of donations and food distribution. Now, with the Fresh Food Hub, we can do more to serve people in need.”

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