NEPTUNE – The Foodbank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties recently changed its name to Fulfill – and for good reason. Although it distributes more than 12 million meals between the two counties – including 40,000 children – there’s much more to their story than meets the eye.
Executive Director Carlos Rodriguez said the name change was very deliberate, and the result of an 18-month-long process. When the nonprofit was looking to refresh their image, they looked from within for feedback. He said the name itself was a creative response to what their constituents told them that they needed.
“They told us we were not really capturing everything that we do and not really communicating it effectively,” he said. “As important as ‘foodbank’ is to the organization’s history, it was getting in the way of us telling that story.”
It doesn’t mean the nonprofit is shelling out less food, it just means their mission is now more targeted toward specific needs – such as those of children and seniors – and more accurately reflects all of its programs, not just those that involve emergency food.
So what exactly are the other programs Fulfill offers the community?
- Nutritious food distribution
- Kids’ feeding programs
- Mobile and pediatric pantries
- Free tax preparation
- SNAP and healthcare enrollment assistance
- Culinary job training and placement
Rodriguez said the tax program had a phenomenal season. The service provides free, electronic tax filing for low- and moderate-income individuals and families through the help of IRS-certified volunteer tax preparers.
Another program that’s thriving is the culinary skills training program, which has so far helped nearly 300 adults gain permanent employment in the hospitality industry. The program provides 13 weeks of onsite food training by an executive chef, job shadowing at local restaurants and an opportunity to receive industry certifications. Classes are held at both Fulfill in Neptune and the B.E.A.T. Center in Toms River, where their sauté skills often translate into meals served at the JBJ Soul Kitchen, which is also located in the Center.
Rodriguez said it’s still about filling the plate and making bellies full, but it’s also about looking beyond that, to what we can do to get families back on their feet.
Most people are aware that Fulfill has two facilities in Neptune and Toms River, but the organization is also teamed up with 300 feeding partners throughout Ocean and Monmouth Counties, such as churches and senior centers, that serve as local food pantries or soup kitchens. To locate one, visit fulfillnj.org/get-help/locate-a-pantry.
“Our vision is to really grow,” said Rodriguez.
Together with these feeding partners, Fulfill reaches 10 percent of the population in Monmouth and Ocean Counties, which adds up to over 130,000 people. This is a figure of pride for Rodriguez, but he still wonders what else can be done, especially in such a suburban community, where people don’t necessarily expect hunger to be an issue.
“We’re doing more programing that gets at the question of why people in this community can’t access the food that’s all around us,” he said.
To learn about programs at Fulfill or find out ways to volunteer, visit fulfillnj.org or call 732-918-2600.