Elijah’s Promise Keeping its Doors Open Despite COVID-19
Elijah’s Promise has a commitment to never close its doors. During the COVID-19 crisis is no exception; though our social services team does have the doors blocked off with service desks.
We were lucky. The prescience of our expert healthcare partners warned us well in advance about the dramatic impact a pandemic would have on our service and our community. Elijah’s Promise spent weeks putting together emergency plans, sending non-essential staff to work remotely, and spending upwards of $35,000 to purchase freezers, to-go containers, and adjusting staff hours to ensure enough emergency meals were being cooked for all of our guests and outside clients.
Not every non-profit had this level of preparedness though, in part because of the confusion and lack of clear instruction that ensued, especially during the early days of the crisis. Unfortunately, this confusion and the nature of needing to stay physically distanced from one another has led many of the smaller food pantries in New Brunswick to suspend their operations. Institutional food providers to senior living facilities such as hospitals have also had to stop their meal service to address their immense, immediate needs.
In all of the chaos, Elijah’s Promise has done everything in its power to adapt to the current circumstances and rapidly increasing need. We have converted the Community Soup Kitchen to to-go only. We already see a 67 percent increase in service, up to 250 guests a day. Hot meals are served along with a bagged dinner for later as often as they are available. The bags usually come from public school meal services delivering us their daily surplus. We have also been forced to condense our service to once a day from our normal twice a day in order to keep our staff and guests safe and to be reasonable with staff’s hours.
It’s not all gloom. While we anticipate our numbers to double again within the next couple of weeks, we have had the fortune of amazing partners like the Middlesex County Food Bank (MCFOODS) who have kept us well-stocked and the county well-informed on the constant changes in service at food pantries and social services throughout Middlesex. Numerous school districts have agreed to donate their surplus school meals so we can continue providing two meals a day to our guests and service other off-site feeding needs. Local restaurants have also generously donated or had food purchased by our amazing supporters to help provide them business while giving our chefs time to catch up with emergency meal stockpiling and providing for off-site food needs.
While we are grateful and fortunate for the support we have had so far, this crisis has no end in sight and we need to be honest about what it will take to continue our mission through the end and beyond. We must urge that when you are considering making financial contributions to nonprofit organizations during this crisis that you consider the local, front-lines organizations first. Unlike state-wide or nationally recognized organizations, these organizations don’t enjoy huge corporate donations, massive ad campaigns, or direct government assistance. We rely on you, now more than ever, to ensure the most vulnerable among us receive the security of food and health needed to endure these times.
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 through serving good food for all at our community soup kitchen, providing education and jobs in the food industry through our Promise Culinary School, a community garden, community advocacy, and creating social enterprise food businesses that further social good.