First-In-The-Nation Benefits Station on Wheels Brings Services to Families in Need at the Jersey Shore “Right Where They Are” in a COVID Safe Way
ASBURY PARK, NJ – A large crowd of community leaders, state and local officials, and members of the community gathered for the groundbreaking launch of Fulfill’s Benefits Bus in Asbury Park. The first-in the nation benefits station on wheels brings services directly to people in need “Right Where They Are”, allowing Fulfill’s Resource Connections Team to meet with clients in a COVID safe way. The Benefits Bus is fully outfitted with three socially distant workstations with plexiglass protection. A “slide” mechanism on the bus makes the space wider once the bus is parked to provide at least six feet between the workstations. It is also equipped with a ventilation system, running water, heat, a restroom, and a chair lift. Team members register families for SNAP (food stamps), affordable health care, and Medicaid. They also assist with tax preparation, affordable housing applications, budgeting and money management, utility expenses, and senior services.
“Fulfill’s mission is to end hunger in our community. But simply feeding the hungry does not address the long-term root of hunger. We believe connecting our neighbors in need to services that can improve their overall situation is key to breaking the cycle of poverty, and as such, hunger. Many of our clients do not drive, and there is no public transportation to our building, so it is crucial that we bring these services to their doorstep while keeping everyone safe,” said Fulfill CEO and President Kim Guadagno, the former Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey.
Feeding America CEO Claire Babineaux-Fontenot addressed the crowd via Zoom from a jumbotron screen. “As more people are turning to food banks for help, it is imperative that we connect them to all the resources available to get them back on their feet quickly. We are excited to join Fulfill today to launch the Benefits Bus and reach as many families as possible,” said Babineaux-Fontenot. Fulfill was able to purchase and retrofit the bus thanks to a Feeding America COVID relief grant.
Carole Johnson, the Commissioner of New Jersey’s Department of Human Services, was in attendance at the launch and spoke about how the Benefits Bus would help families. “These are challenging times for New Jerseyans, which is why Fulfill’s Benefits Bus is a game-changer in meeting people where they are and helping to connect families to food assistance, medical assistance and much more,” Commissioner Johnson said. “NJ Human Services will continue to use all available levers to get as much assistance to families as possible, but we can only do that in partnership with community leaders like Fulfill. Thanks to former Lieutenant Governor Guadagno, the Fulfill SNAP outreach team, and the frontline workforce that works every day to not only meet families’ emergency food needs, but to enroll folks in benefit programs that can offer consistent help. The Benefits Bus is a creative way to increase access to the vital Human Services’ assistance programs that help families stay fed, safe, and healthy.”
Special thanks to Curtis Moreland, the President of “From Jersey with Love”, for hosting the event outside his pantry on Dewitt Avenue, which is one of Fulfill’s nearly 300 feeding agencies in Monmouth and Ocean Counties. Our sincere appreciation also goes to Saker ShopRite, specifically Richard and Laura Saker, for funding the wrapping of the bus. We also thank The Causeway Family of Dealerships and The Wintrode Foundation for graciously ensuring our Benefits Bus was safe and road ready, with thorough mechanical inspections and repairs.
This is a project near and dear to the hearts of everyone at Fulfill. We lost a member of our Resource Connections Team to complications of the coronavirus in April. Diana Tennant was just 51-years old. The mother of three adult children from Bradley Beach with a grandchild was a champion for the hungry and a SNAP advocate who worked tirelessly to bring needed services to families in the community.
About Fulfill, formerly The FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties
Fulfill has been providing food for families in Monmouth and Ocean Counties for more than thirty years. We were there to provide food and comfort during economic storms, Superstorm Sandy, and now a pandemic. During the current coronavirus crisis, the demand for food has grown 40% and Fulfill has served an additional 2.6 MILLION meals to people in need. We expect the demand to grow as more businesses close and families exhaust their savings.
Fulfill feeds children, seniors, veterans, and the working poor. Fulfill serves pantries, shelters, and soup kitchens, provides hot meals for children after school, and sends food home for those same children over the weekend. Before the pandemic, Fulfill also provided job training in our culinary program.
Fulfill has earned a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator for more than ten consecutive years. This distinction means Fulfill, a 501 (c)3 charitable organization, outperformed most charities in America in areas of efficiency, fiscal integrity, and effectiveness. In fact, 95 cents of every dollar donated to Fulfill goes directly to feeding the hungry in our community.