We’re Going Beyond Hunger
CUMAC held a series of focus group sessions last summer to better understand the needs of our community. The most critical discovery from CUMAC’s research was identifying a major gap in access to healthy food and resources among our clients. To help address these issues, CUMAC is excited to announce the launch of our Beyond Hunger Initiative, which includes 3 key objectives:
- Have a healthy food pantry
- Have an effective job readiness program
- Be a vibrant place to work and receive clients
By becoming a one-stop access point for healthy food, nutrition education, health screenings, and other supportive services, we are working to enable individuals living in impoverished communities to overcome hunger and related health issues while working to break the chains of generational poverty.
1. Have A Healthy Food Pantry
As part of Beyond Hunger, CUMAC’s food pantry is transitioning to a health-focused, choice marketplace this year. Thanks to the generous support of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Knights Hospitaller, New York Commandery and Union Congregational Church, construction on the new pantry will begin this spring. Planning is now underway and by mid-summer, CUMAC’s marketplace will resemble a grocery store, where clients will be able to “shop” for what they need. These items will include fresh produce, lean meat and other quality proteins, whole grains, low-fat dairy, legumes and other healthy foods. While we work to transition to a choice marketplace, CUMAC is working with the Community Food Bank of New Jersey and the New Jersey Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to upgrade the contents of the pre- bagged groceries we distribute to promote better nutrition by prioritizing those same healthy items. By providing healthy food we are working to help clients overcome hunger while addressing the myriad of health issues associated with food insecurity including diabetes, hypertension, obesity and other diseases. CUMAC’s pantry is already providing 30,0000 people with healthy groceries and another 19,000 people with surplus produce every year. With a larger, more efficient space, our team will be able to expand healthy food access and assist even more of our neighbors in need.
Along with making healthy foods more readily available, our new marketplace will address health disparities by providing clients access to live food demonstrations, health screenings, and other supportive services. Many of these resources are already being offered in our pantry, and the new space will allow us to share these opportunities with a larger audience on a regular basis. Serving thousands of people every month provides our team with the unique opportunity to make a real impact on the wellness of our community. By collaborating with various community partners to offer wraparound services, we will help ensure that our clients have all of the resources they need to thrive.
2. Have an effective job readiness program
As you may already know, CUMAC recently relaunched its Pathways to Work program. Pathways is a comprehensive training program for those struggling to find gainful employment. CUMAC is taking steps to bolster this program, which serves an average of 35 participants annually, to create lasting change in our community. Pathways is now offering participants assistance with resume writing, onsite tutoring for GED prep and college readiness, mock interviews, networking options, forklift training and certification, and resources to aid with the job search process. Through a combination of onsite training, skill building, and access to resources, Pathways creates a scalable and sustainable model for job readiness training that leads to opportunities for careers. The revamped program is already making an impact. We’re proud to share that nine of our participants found full-time positions in 2018 and we are hoping to grow those numbers in the months ahead.
3. Be a vibrant place to work and receive clients
As a final component of Beyond Hunger, we will continue to invest in our team, those we serve, and our infrastructure to make CUMAC a vibrant place to work and receive clients. In 2018, our staff made efforts to address major facility and equipment needs, and that will continue in the months ahead with our new marketplace. CUMAC is also committed to providing an empowering work environment that reflects the community we serve. CUMAC will continue to hire from our community and provide salaries that are above minimum wage with full medical benefits. Additionally, all staff will have opportunities to better themselves through professional development, financial literacy training, and access to education. Through the combined efforts of the Pantry, Pathways to Work, and providing a vibrant workplace, CUMAC is helping to empower our community with resources and services that can break generational cycles of poverty.
As we continue to feed people & change lives, our team is full of hope and determination for what lies ahead. Thanks to all of our friends, supporters, and community partners that our making this new initiative possible. Together, we’re working toward a future beyond hunger.
Happy National Nutrition Month
March is National Nutrition Month! To celebrate we'd like to share one of the many ways we're working to improve eating habits around our community. Thanks to our partnership with NJ Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, our clients are now able to learn about healthy eating through weekly food demos. Every Wednesday you will find dietitians cooking in our pantry, speaking with clients about nutrition, answering food questions, and sharing recipes and tips. What’s on the menu for this week? A healthy stir-fry recipe made using ingredients fresh from our shelves! For clients and staff alike, these visits are not only informative, but delicious. Thanks NJ Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics for sharing your knowledge with us!
Meet Anthony. He’s a Paterson native and a father of two boys. He loves writing, comic books, and hanging out with his family. Anthony has spent most of his adulthood working in warehouse operations and enjoys the challenges that come with it. He never graduated high school, but Anthony has always worked hard, done well for himself, and provided his family with everything they need. One day, everything changed for Anthony. After 14 years with his employer, he became a casualty of budget cuts and lost his job. The news turned his whole world upside down. To get by, he worked odd jobs and late nights, but couldn’t seem to find a steady position. As time passed, Anthony’s savings started to run low and he had to budget carefully. Soon, his worries turned into panic. For the first time in his life, Anthony was struggling to make ends meet.
Determined to get this life back on track, Anthony joined CUMAC’s Pathways to Work last year, and quickly immersed himself in the program. Since then, he has worked in several departments to gain job experience, and completed our forklift certification training to add even more skills to his resume. At the same time, he’s been studying regularly to get his high school diploma. Our Pathways program now offers tutoring for GED prep and college readiness so Anthony has been working closely with CUMAC volunteers to prepare. He tells us that the extra support has made a big difference and he’s now looking forward to taking his exams. “I’ll have my high school diploma once I finish” says Anthony. “It’s something I thought I’d never go back to, getting my diploma, but I’m glad I’m doing this. It’s been a great experience.”
Along with providing resources to become a more qualified job candidate, CUMAC has also assisted Anthony with the job search process through mock interviews and special workshops. “CUMAC took the time to help us do resumes, which I appreciate because now I know how to write a resume” says Anthony. “I never knew how to do one. Now I’m sending out my resume and I can feel better about how I’m presenting myself.”
On top of all his training and development, we’re thrilled to share that Anthony was also able to move into a new apartment with his family recently. At first, he was worried about the move. Anthony and his sons had been staying with some family until they could get back on their feet. Living on a tight budget, he wasn’t sure if he would be able to afford the additional expenses that come with living on your own. Teresa, our Community Closet Manager, helped ease his fears. When she heard about Anthony’s dilemma, Teresa provided him with a new mattress, box spring, couch, table, chairs, kitchenware, dishes, and other essentials. Additionally, our team helped transport the items to Anthony’s new place to make the move a little easier. Anthony is still getting settled in his new place, but he says that CUMAC helped make his apartment feel like a home, and that’s something he will never forget.
When Anthony first joined the Pathways program, he will tell you that he was quiet and discouraged. In many ways, the trauma of the last couple of years kept him from imagining a brighter future. He often felt like giving up, but the CUMAC team was always there to give him the boost that he needed. For Anthony, that support was vital. As the months have passed, we’ve seen him flourish. “The team has been pushing me, encouraging me, and that’s really helped me to spread my wings” he says. “I feel like I’ve grown a lot. CUMAC has really helped me break out of my shell.” With more confidence in himself, Anthony continues to take on more responsibility around the building and impress our team with his abilities. Along with supporting our day-to-day operations, he now helps train new Pathways members, and even leads groups on various projects.
Anthony hopes to get his diploma this spring and continue working toward a career that he loves. In the meantime, he’s making the most of his time with Pathways, a program that has inspired him in many ways. “CUMAC has helped me get into a better place in my life. Everyone here is like family. If you need to talk, they’re there to listen, to help. I have a much more positive outlook on everything now. I smile more. I’m happier. I’m more open. I used to look forward to calling it a day, now I look forward to tomorrow, to the future. It feels good.”
Pathways to work is providing our neighbors with the skills and resources they need to thrive. Thank you for making programs like this possible.
STORY UPDATE: We’re happy to share that Anthony passed his HiSET exam and has earned his high school equivalency diploma!
Anthony is now dreaming big about his career and we couldn’t be more excited. With his talent and work ethic, we know that he has a bright future ahead!
Supporting Our Neighbors
Joan is 83 years old and living on a fixed income. She had some health issues this year, and after a recent hospitalization, realized that she needed to make some lifestyle changes. Joan is now walking every day and on a healthy diet full of produce and low-fat foods. Though Joan struggles to afford these items, coming to CUMAC has allowed her to stick with the new diet. Fresh fruits and vegetables are available in our pantry every day, and for Joan that’s made all the difference.
She takes the bus to our pantry a few times per month to stock up on produce and other goods. “It’s worth the trip” she says. “No pantry I know has the variety of food I find at CUMAC.”
Joan hopes to get her health under control this year, and we believe she’s well on her way. Joan tells us that she’s been feeling great lately and has new-found energy. As she continues to work toward wellness, our team remains committed to providing her with the resources she needs to stay healthy and hunger-free.
Every month, CUMAC provides over 1,500 people with produce and fresh food to stave off hunger. For neighbors like Joan, these items are a lifeline. Consider making a donation today to support our food rescue efforts and community programs. Every gift can help change lives.
CUMAC’s 2nd Annual Tricky Tray
Thanks to everyone who came out to support our 2nd Annual Tricky Tray at The Valley Regency earlier this month. It was a night to remember! Our MC kept the room smiling all night long, while attendees enjoyed delicious food, live music, and the chance to win everything from electronics to vacation getaways. We had a packed house for the event, and together we raised critical funds for CUMAC's mission and programs!
Our team would like to send a special thank you to our event sponsors, M&T Bank and Summit Medical Group Foundation.
As we continue to feed people & change lives, your support of events helps ensure that we can continue to serve all who come our way. See our upcoming events here.
Partners In Our Work
CUMAC would like to thank our friends at Trader Joe's for their continued support of our mission. For several years, Trader Joe's has been donating surplus food to CUMAC, helping to keep our pantry shelves stocked with fresh, high quality items. Our drivers pick up a variety of foods from their Paramus and Clifton stores every week. Over 312,000 pounds of food was rescued from these locations last year, allowing our team to serve thousands of additional clients. Thank you Trader Joe's for being such an important partner in our work!
Take Action This Spring
VOLUNTEER WITH US
CUMAC is looking for individuals and groups to help sort, pack, and distribute food and other resources for our clients. Help is needed during morning (Tuesday-Friday, 9am-11am) and afternoon shifts (Monday-Friday, 1-3pm) throughout the week. If you’re interested in getting involved or want to learn more please call (973-742-5518) or e-mail our volunteer department.
HELP A FAMILY IN NEED
With 1 in 3 families struggling to afford diapers, our staff understands how important it is to provide these items in our pantry. Unfortunately, CUMAC’s supply of diapers (especially size 3 and up) is running low right now. Can you help? Consider donating a box or holding a diaper drive this month to restock our shelves. Every donation can bring relief to a family in need!
Save The Date
FLAMES: NJ's Top Chefs Ignite Big, Crazy Dreams
Thursday, September 19