On March 1, 2023, we celebrated the 32nd anniversary of the Walk-In Dinner Program.
On that date in 1991, Family Promise (then the IRF) began providing free hot dinners in Hackensack to anyone in the community who needed one. For 19 years, we distributed dinners from four different locations, moving from place to place. And we never missed a meal.
Then, 13 years ago, we moved to the Bergen County Housing, Health and Human Services Center in Hackensack, and we have continued our program each and every evening. Nothing has stopped us. If we knew there was a snowstorm coming, we prepared and distributed two meals the night before to anyone in need.
When the pandemic hit and the residents of the Center were moved to motels, some assumed our dinner program would end. Yet we never even considered that and, the next day, we began putting the food into to-go trays and delivering the dinners to the individuals in the motels. As we walked down the motel hallways, others asked if they could get meals – and we added those people to our growing list of those we served.
Now, with prices continuing to sky-rocket ever higher, more and more are coming to receive dinners from us. And many of them are families . . . as well as a number who pick up meals to bring to older or physically challenged individuals who cannot come to the Center themselves. Family Promise has made the commitment to serve those in need, and many others feel a personal commitment to get dinners to bring to others.
And the numbers continue to mount. Pre-pandemic, we served on average about 100 meals a night. Just within the last weeks, we have had nights of over 200 meals – 218 in one night alone two weeks ago and, just last week, we served 233 meals! The numbers continue to head UP!
We served 53,000 dinners in 2022, and the numbers continued to climb each month. At this rate, we could serve over 58,000 meals this year!
But look at our food program in a different way. Our Walk-In Dinner Program is not just a way to address food insecurity.
Because the people who get their meals at the loading dock do not have to pay for their dinners, they have the money to pay for their rent. Our estimate is that over 95% of the people who come to the dock for meals have housing, so they take their meals home to eat there. Our “food” program is also a “homeless prevention” program!
Based on the cost of meals that we and others purchase or donate, plus the cost of supplies, our program provides meals valued at $600,000 a year. That does not include the value of the thousands of hours our volunteers contribute.
Family Promise has been so blessed to be able to provide over 1.3 million meals worth well over $6 million over these past 32 years – and we have done this because of YOU and the countless others who provide meals, supplies, time, and financial donations. We cannot thank you enough – on behalf of the people who have been the recipients of those 1.3 million meals.
We appreciate your ongoing support.
Paul R. Shackford
President of the Board of Trustees