Summit. It is a beautiful town, filled with greenery, parks, art, schools and businesses. It is considered by many to be an affluent community. When you see children playing at the park, it is natural, it is a joyous part of childhood. When you see a parent walking home with their child from school, you may think that it is simply healthy way to bond. But if you look deeply into Summit, there are social and economic inequities that cannot be ignored. A child playing at a park could mean that their home is unable to provide the resources necessary for a child to learn, play and stretch their legs. A parent walking home with their child may not have the means to afford a mode of transportation--whether it is to school, or even to access food.
Since 2017, the Summit Area YMCA has worked in collaboration with the Junior League of Summit and the Community Food Bank of New Jersey to provide supplemental food packs to over 140 students and their families in our Summit School system. Many students enrolled in the free or reduced-priced school meals during the school week may not have access to food over the weekend, often coming to school on Monday mornings feeling faint from hunger. School nurses, teachers and administrators provide the students with packs of food prepared by the Food Bank and delivered by the Y every Friday during the school year.
With schools closed for the remainder of the school year, and unemployment on the rise due to COVID19 closures, families in NJ are now faced with food insecurity not only on weekends, but on a daily basis. With the Community Food Bank’s hours adjusted with a lower capacity for bagging food, the Summit Area YMCA has stepped in to fill the gap. Every week, the Food Bank sends pallets of food to the Y where volunteers then sort and bag approximately 400 bags of groceries that also include donations from the local community. These packs are then given out on Fridays to the community.
With nearly 5% of Summit’s population in poverty, according to the US Census Bureau, many families are faced with difficulty paying rent and putting food on the table, but even access to food may be limited based on transportation ability.
“It’s been raining every Friday that we’ve been handing out food, and I know there are people who come on bicycles and some people don’t have vehicles.” said Patty Facchinei, Financial Assistance and Volunteer Coordinator of the Summit YMCA. “I reached out to the schools to let them know that if there was anyone who needed the packs of food, and that couldn’t get here to pick up, that we would deliver for them.”
Volunteers of the Family Backpack Program make weekly deliveries of approximately 10-15 homes throughout Summit.
“We are helping each other out and taking care of each other—helping each other get through these difficult times. My daughter and I come every week to help pack the food on Thursday and distribute the packs on Friday.” said Jennifer Shurmur, a volunteer for the program. “I’m thankful for the Y for facilitating this, for the community. So many people are grateful that the Y has stepped up for the people in need during this crisis.”
To help address food insecurity and prevent hunger in our community, please consider donating food and supplies to the Summit YMCA, or volunteering with the Y. Together, we can strengthen our communities and give every individual the opportunity to thrive.
Special thanks goes out to the Community Food Bank of New Jersey for delivering the many pallets of food to the Summit Area YMCA every week, and for the constant communication of the staff, teachers, nurses and administrators at the Summit schools for assisting the Y in helping students and families in need during this difficult time.
To donate food and supplies, please drop them off in the bins located at the back entrance of the Summit YMCA at 67 Maple Street, Summit, NJ 07901. Click here to see the list of donation items accepted.
To volunteer for the Family Backpack Program during this time, please contact Patty Facchinei at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (908)273-3330 Ext. 1174.
To donate to the Y and help us further our mission, visit www.thesay.org/give.
About the Summit Area YMCA
The Summit Area YMCA is one of the area’s leading 501(c)(3) charitable organizations. Founded in 1886, the Summit Area YMCA has a history steeped in working side-by-side with our neighbors to ensure that everyone, regardless of age, income and background, has the opportunity to learn, grow and thrive. Each year, we serve more than 10,000 individuals with our free and fee-based programs and services in an area spanning the communities of Berkeley Heights, Gillette, Millburn, New Providence, Short Hills, Springfield, Stirling and Summit. Through the generosity of our members, donors, and partners, we are able to offer financial assistance for our programs and services to those with demonstrated need.