Middlesex County has been committed to organizing an eradication of hunger since MCFOODS, its food distribution organization, was formed in the closet of a park police building in Edison in 1994.
Recently rebranded to REPLENISH, the new name highlights how the organization has shifted into a higher gear, especially during the pandemic, to offering more than just food to county residents.
“We have been focusing on nourishing the whole person by providing important resources and support to the community in addition to food distribution,” explained Director Jennifer Apostol, referencing the organization’s new tagline, “Nourishing Neighbors.”
REPLENISH also now operates within the Middlesex County Department of Community Services, formerly under the county’s Improvement Authority. REPLENISH launched on September 5 as part of the county’s annual Labor Day Concert.
REPLENISH is now a collaboration of more than 140 local organizations.
Through this network, REPLENISH provides dairy, frozen, fresh and shelf-stable foods and necessities to organizations throughout the 25 towns in Middlesex County. In 2019, the organization received and distributed more than 2.2 million pounds of food. Last year, while never shutting its doors because of the pandemic, REPLENISH collected and distributed 4,378,792 pounds of food, a 93% increase over the year before, Apostol said.
“The pandemic has certainly made the organization more all-encompassing because we not only provide much-needed food but also guidance on important resources and programs,” she noted. “We connect resources with the people who need them.”
Apostol and REPLENISH are planning ahead to the holidays. With the pandemic still lingering, many of the neediest residents will need support more than ever to make it through the winter.
“Hunger is an issue all year round but we ask that people focus on preparing and donating for important holiday meals,” Apostol said.
REPLENISH is a long-time member of the Middlesex County Regional Chamber of Commerce, leveraging its membership to promote food collection events and better connect with the community.
“Lina Llona and everyone at the Middlesex Chamber has always been very supportive as we all work towards ending the challenges of food insecurity in the county,” Apostol said.
To learn more, visit www.middlesexcountynj.gov/replenish.