Update on The Food Brigade, 2023 WUIP Grantee

“The van equals a ray of hope. It means that we do not have to say ‘no’ to people in need.”
—Karen DeMarco, President, The Food Brigade

Hello friends,

Rosanne Buscemi and Michele Calise are serving as the liaisons for The Food Brigade, our 2023 grant recipient. It is with the help of this grant of $40,000 that The Food Brigade was able to purchase a new commercial van from Mercedes Benz of Paramus. They picked up the van on July 25 and received the title, registration and plates on August 11. They began using the van and fulfilling the objective of the grant immediately!

One of the first tasks that the new van was able to assist with was the moving of food between their pantry locations to help them better fill client needs. The van has also enabled them to expand their outreach as it seems that they are receiving more calls for assistance from people who cannot physically visit their sites. In particular, the grant is enabling the Food Brigade volunteers to aid largely women in Bergen County with food insecurity and their need for basic necessities. Immediately after putting the van on the road, they delivered to a mother and her family of five Ukrainian refugees in Fair Lawn; a grandmother in North Arlington who recently got custody of her four grandchildren ages 1-8, some of whom have special needs; and provided food to two sisters in Hackensack, ages 14 and 18, whose mother recently died. This is just the beginning.

At present they are working on developing regular delivery routes based on the locations of clients who are either homebound or unable to travel to pick up a food box. They hope to finalize these routes by the September-October time frame. Some of these clients had previously been receiving deliveries from The Food Brigade through the Door Dash program. But the Door Dash program, in addition to costing $4.50 per bag, limited size and number of bags as well as the types of products to be delivered. In particular, items such as diapers and feminine products were among the items not deliverable. That program has been discontinued with the addition of the new Food Brigade van!

Watch for an opportunity for our members to see the van once their name is wrapped on it. WUIP’s board has opted to not display the WUIP logo out of an abundance of caution regarding potential future liability. The Food Brigade team will recognize and thank us on social media as well as at the “in person” celebration later this fall. The Food Brigade continues to show us they are a well-organized and supported growing nonprofit. They attribute much of their success to the volunteers who they consider to be shareholders in their mission. On a weekly basis, they average 80 volunteers that come to assist with the operations.

Karen DeMarco stated, “The van equals a ray of hope. It means that we do not have to say ‘no’ to people in need.” She also made us aware that more and more homebound women are in need of diapers which they could not deliver previously with DoorDash. To put it simply, their ability to acquire this van is a game changer for The Food Brigade in a great way!

Michele Calise and Rosanne Buscemi
2023 WUIP Liaisons

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