Getting Creative For the Summer
A summer without live, in-person events is disappointing for most, but for those whose incomes rely on seasonal events, the pandemic is especially devastating. The Mercado Esperanza, a community festival and market that Elijah’s Promise has sponsored for several seasons now, is not able to hold its monthly events this year. For the food entrepreneurs in our community who typically rent our kitchen to prepare food and sell it at the Mercado, this loss of income opportunity cannot be understated. For the community itself, not being able to enjoy in this important cultural activity is challenging. But for the Mercado vendors, it is devastating.
In the Spring, as soon as we become aware that the Mercado Esperanza would not be able to go on this year, Elijah’s Promise began developing plans for how to provide income to the vendors while also spreading the spirit of the Mercado in times when it is needed most. This month, we are excited to incorporate the Mercado Esperanza and its members into our ongoing work and to create new opportunities with these partners at the forefront.
As the Community Soup Kitchen has steadily served an average 650-700 meals a day for the past month, Mercado Esperanza vendors have been hired to help supplement the meals we serve. Their contributions help reduce the pressure on our staff to cook all of the meals by themselves. Starting soon, Mercado vendors will be paid to prepare special family-friendly meals to be served at local churches and community centers at different hours than our Community Soup Kitchen and in different neighborhoods in New Brunswick.
This initiative will fulfill several important priorities. Families, whom we have seen coming to the Community Soup Kitchen in greater numbers than ever before, will have family-oriented spaces and resources they can benefit from. Our services will also reach more areas in New Brunswick than we currently are able to service. And of course, more people will have the opportunity to enjoy the delicious food cooked by the Mercado Esperanza vendors.
Another program Elijah’s Promise is beginning to bring back online is our value-added production. Prior to COVID-19, several Promise Culinary School graduates were hired to produce canned goods in partnership with local farms and farmers’ markets. We look forward to beginning this social enterprise again this month, providing good paying jobs to folks in a hard-hit industry and providing healthful foods to markets in the greater New Brunswick and Newark areas.
While we are far from having recovered from the pandemic yet, we are fortunate to be able to continue providing employment opportunities for local food entrepreneurs and chefs while continuing to changes lives with the power of food.
About the Grantee
Elijah’s Promise harnesses the power of food to break the cycle of poverty, alleviate hunger, and change lives. We fight to end hunger by serving good food for all at our community soup kitchen, providing education and jobs in the food industry through our Promise Culinary School, encouraging neighborhood agriculture at our community garden, offering social services to those in need, engaging in
Funder: New Jersey Department of Health
Cities: New Brunswick