Meeting Essential Needs With Dignity (MEND) is an interfaith network of 16 food pantries located throughout Essex County, NJ. Our anti-hunger coalition, the largest in Essex County, has been providing emergency food to individuals and families in need since 1980. MEND is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation.

Mission

MEND works to alleviate hunger in Essex County by supporting our network of food pantries. Support includes fresh and healthy food, funds, social services referrals, volunteers, and a forum for member pantries. MEND advocates for policies to improve the quality of life for those in need in the County.

Who MEND Pantries Serve

MEND pantries served 109,000 Essex County residents in 2016. Families and individuals facing hardship find food and encouragement in our programs.  MEND includes eight pantries in Newark, and eight more in Bloomfield, East Orange, Irvington, Montclair, Orange, South Orange, Maplewood, and West Orange,. The elderly, single people, and families are all welcome. More than one-third of those fed through our pantries are children.

Much More than a Food Pantry Network

Many MEND pantries provide support services in addition to emergency food. Some provide clothing and household items. Others include a soup kitchen and serve hot meals. One offers day care, and another operates an emergency shelter.

How MEND Supports its Food Pantries

MEND provides infrastructure and financial support along with food sourcing and distribution so its pantries can do what they do best – serve their clients. MEND receives support from Catholic Charities’ Emergency Food & Nutrition Network for administrative services and food transportation. Local houses of worship, foundations, community organizations, and individuals donate food that MEND then collects and distributes among its member pantries.

MEND applies for grants that benefit its pantries. It cultivates corporations, foundations, and service organizations as donors as well as working relationships with government agencies and officials. Two current examples of funded projects include MEND’s Healthy Pantries Healthy Patrons Program and its Summer Hunger Busters Program. MEND sponsors coalition-wide food drives and programs, and leads an ongoing public hunger awareness and advocacy effort.

MEND provides a forum for information-sharing, support, and community building among its pantries. Every month, member pantries gather to identify common issues and concerns, address service obstacles, and share strategies and best practices for providing assistance and advocating for change.

MEND is committed to increasing public awareness of hunger in our community. Through its food drives, fundraisers, hunger walks and other special events, newsletters, website, and social media, MEND’s goal is to ensure that the larger community is aware of the plight of the thousands of people in Essex County who do not have enough food.

Consistent with our mission to end hunger and support those in need to live independent, fulfilling lives, MEND advocates for change at state and local levels. We envision a community where everyone has the food needed to thrive.