Organization works with partners to ensure less fortunate don’t go hungry this Thanksgiving

HILLSIDE — Thanksgiving is a holiday that many associate with family and food. The Community Food Bank of New Jersey works to feed the hungry all year long. But the organization puts a special focus on Thanksgiving, knowing that nearly a million people across the state have one of those two key ingredients missing.

“We want to provide them, not just with the help this holiday season with the food that they need this holiday season, but also with the hope that they can hopefully rely on year round,” said Community Food Bank of New Jersey President and CEO Carlos Rodriguez.

On Monday, Rodriguez stood among mountains of boxes that were being loaded into vans and U- hauls for one of the food bank’s nine turkey distribution events this season. Rodriguez says it’s days like this that remind people of the real meaning of Thanksgiving, but also the holiday’s origins.

“This is really when community gave to community. When you think of the pilgrims and how the holiday came to be, it was really just neighbor helping another neighbor back then,” Rodriguez said.

The food bank’s partners in Essex County came to load their vehicles with turkeys, chickens and holiday boxes. Each box is complete with a turkey and all of the Thanksgiving trimmings.

Mary White helps run the soup kitchen at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church in Newark. The church, which has been a partner of the food bank for 15 years, feeds 200 people in the community, twice a month and it’s also hosting a Thanksgiving feast on the holiday for those who don’t have the means to celebrate.

“It is definitely a real need. It’s not a superficial thing. They don’t come because it’s free. They come because they need it,” White said

The Community Food Bank of New Jersey distributed 2,500 turkeys on Monday and is expected to give away 25,000 in total this season.