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Photo of Secretary Kuperus serving Thanksgiving lunch at soup kitchen - Click to enlarge
For Immediate Release: November 21, 2007
Contact: Lynne Richmond
(609) 633-2954

(BRIDGETON) – New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture pitched in today to help serve a Thanksgiving lunch with all the trimmings to more than 80 people at the Society of St. Vincent dePaul soup kitchen in Bridgeton.

“Holidays can be especially difficult for the hungry of our state since it is tradition to have a large holiday meal,” said Secretary Kuperus.  “Agencies, such as the Society of St. Vincent DePaul in Bridgeton, that serve  special Thanksgiving meals and those that provide groceries for families to prepare their own holiday meals, ensure that the people they serve are included in the celebration the rest of us enjoy.”

The poor, homeless and disadvantaged of the area are served a hot lunch Monday through Friday all year round at the soup kitchen, but the day before Thanksgiving is a special meal, with turkey, white and sweet potatoes, gravy, pies and dessert, all donated by the Greenwich Presbyterian Church.  Volunteers of all denominations were on hand to help serve the meal. 

The soup kitchen – which has been in operation for 25 years -- also is a recipient throughout the year of food purchased with funding from the State Food Purchase Program (SFPP).  The program utilizes Governor Jon Corzine’s $4 million Hunger Initiative to feed additional needy people with nutrient-dense foods with a focus on buying locally.  The six food banks in the state make the purchases and distribute the food to their member agencies. 

“The people we serve are very thankful for the food they receive at the soup kitchen,” said Ann Budde, who organizes the operation.  “While this Thanksgiving meal was donated by a local church, through the State Food Purchase Program, we get some of the best meats and fish we ever had.  It’s a real blessing.  I hope it will continue in the future.”

The State Food Purchase Program began in 2006 with a $3 million allocation, which enabled the state’s six food banks to purchase 3.9 million pounds of food in the last fiscal year.   SFPP audits indicate that 47 percent of the food purchased was fruits and vegetables, either frozen, canned, fresh or dried.  

In addition, the Department operates the Emergency Food Assistance Program, which distributes food donated by the United States Department of Agriculture through a network of 660 food pantries, soup kitchens and other feeding operations.  Last year, the Department distributed more than 6.4 million pounds of the USDA commodities. About 19 percent of state residents are living below 185 percent of the poverty level, making them eligible to receive food from the Emergency Feeding Assistance Program, run by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture.