The FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties (FoodBank), The Peoples Pantry (INSPIRE NJ), and Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation (JBJSF) announced today the formation of The B.E.A.T. Center (Bringing Everyone All Together), a community hub where families and individuals in need can access food, job training and other resources that aim to end the cyclical cause of hunger in Ocean County, N.J.
Located in the Silverton section of Toms River, N.J. and accessible by public transportation, The B.E.A.T. Center will serve as an “one-stop shop” catering to the urgent needs of the community by connecting residents to resources such as SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program also known as food stamps), affordable healthcare and tax preparation services, as well as access to a community food pantry, meals for at-risk children and seniors, and culinary training program.
“As food lines grow longer across our 133 programs in Ocean County and 1 in 10 of our neighbors struggle with hunger, we continue to build collaborative partnerships to expand our food distribution while also providing services for families that help shorten the line. Bringing our complementary programs and services under one roof at The B.E.A.T. Center will leverage our strengths and change lives in Ocean County,” said Carlos M. Rodriguez, Executive Director of the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties.
The B.E.A.T. Center will also house the second location of JBJ Soul Kitchen, a community restaurant where diners can pay for their meal by making a minimum suggested donation of $10 each or volunteering. One hour earns volunteers a dining certificate for them and up to four family members.
“The B.E.A.T. Center is a unique model and today’s announcement is the beginning of something great. At the Soul Kitchen, we see each week how food brings families, and communities, together. So we were excited for the JBJ Soul Foundation to join with the FoodBank and The Peoples Pantry to offer several services under one roof — it helps make our diners’ lives a little easier. One meal at a time, we hope to make a sustainable impact on hunger in Ocean County,” said Jon Bon Jovi, chairman of the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation.
Ocean County is New Jersey’s fastest growing county and was “ground zero” for Hurricane Sandy. According to FEMA, over 40,000 structures in the county were damaged or destroyed in the storm – 55% of the state’s total. The creation of The B.E.A.T. Center is in response to the reality that today, more than two years after the storm, there are still thousands of families that are still struggling to regain housing, financial stability and to overcome food insecurity — and they are turning to local agencies in record numbers for assistance. The impact of this collaboration is projected to provide $5 million in support to families in need in its first year.
“Of all of the lessons learned from Sandy, the most jarring one was how financially stretched our middle class neighbors are. This collaboration will allow us to continue our work and provide the services that are so desperately needed and deserved by this underserved demographic,” said Patricia Donaghue, Executive Director of The Peoples Pantry (INSPIRE NJ).
One of The B.E.A.T. Center’s goals is to also establish a strong, visible presence in Ocean County that will raise hunger awareness, attract volunteers and advocates, and encourage food donations and financial support. The B.E.A.T. Center is being launched with initial philanthropic support from The David Tepper Foundation.
“We are excited to contribute to the launch The B.E.A.T. Center,” said David Tepper, founder of The David Tepper Foundation, “This is a unique partnership and a fresh approach to meeting the needs of communities that were hard hit by disasters like Superstorm Sandy and where families are still struggling to recover. We believe that The B.E.A.T. Center can become a model to help families attain food security and financial stability.”
“It is with great honor that we welcome the B.E.A.T. Center to Ocean County. This endeavor has been two years in the making and is needed more now than ever. It has been a privilege for my office and myself to be a part of it,” said Thomas F. Kelaher, mayor of Toms River, N.J.
The B.E.A.T. Center grand opening will take place later this year. For more information and to learn how to help, please visit TheBEATCenter.org.
Source: Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation