Essex County, New Jersey
Meeting Essential Needs with Dignity (MEND) is on a mission to transform hunger relief while also meeting increased demand in Essex County, New Jersey. In just one year, the nonprofit has grown from three to 10 staff members, which includes its first development manager. Lisa Duggan knew that promotional aprons, purchased through a one by one grant, would make the perfect gift for people who share a recipe and the story behind it for MEND’s new cookbook. The goal is to raise awareness and funds for MEND.Large group of people wearing branded aprons. “We constantly ask ourselves and our partners if we are doing the best we can for the people we’re serving,” Duggan said. “We provide surveys to those we serve and meet monthly with the managers of the 23 food pantries and 19 other community partners in our network.” MEND on the Move brings food to schools and community centers Feedback from these partners inspired the shift to providing more fresh food and produce, and to creating a program in 2021 called MEND on the Move. Instead of those in need of food assistance having to go to a food pantry that may be out of their neighborhood, MEND brings the fresh food and produce to them in locations they already frequent and at convenient times, like pickup time from schools. “Families learn about MEND and our mobile markets through the schools or community centers where they’re already connected,” Duggan said. “Studies have shown that the greatest benefit comes from feeding the healthiest food to children as early as possible in life. They are sick less, so they can attend school, learn and finish their education.” Promotional aprons available to those who serve and are served MEND on the Move markets are set up like farmers markets, with patrons choosing from baskets of fresh produce and food. MEND also distributes nutritional information and recipes, generating conversation about the cookbook and people’s favorite foods. “A single dad who shopped at the market with his kids mentioned that they didn’t know where pickles come from,” Duggan said. “So, we made sure to include cucumbers at the next market and shared a recipe, and they tried making their own!” Anyone connected to MEND—those who receive supplemental food through the network, volunteers, donors and others—can submit a recipe for the cookbook and receive one of the promotional aprons. The cookbook will be published in multiple languages to reflect the diversity of the communities MEND serves.
For more information about MEND, please visit https://mendnj.org/ opens in new window