Written by the publisher based on an interview with Lisanne Finston, CEO of "Elijah's Promise."
Helping Corporations Feed the Hungry
New Jersey based soup kitchen forges partnerships with local businesses while it serves at- risk populations
Elijah\'s Promise, the New Brunswick based social services organization has several creative programs to support the needy. Elijah is also an acronym for "Empowering Lives, Inviting Justice in Alleviating Hunger.
The first word "Empowering" seems to permeate everything this unique organization does. Whether it is working with the disadvantage or the business community.
One of the aspects that sets this organization apart is its success at working with local businesses and the community in mutually beneficial ways. Biz4NJ met with Lisanne Finston the President of Elijah\'s Promise recently. The conversation suggested that their work was of great interest even to a Business to Business web-site like Biz4NJ.com and the Business Development Programs that Biz4NJ offers.
Here is a short summary of some the innovations this forward thinking organization has come up with by working effectively with the local business community (especially the food production businesses in the region) for mutual benefit.
1. For the last eight years this local non-profit has sponsored the farm to table program. Instead of relying mainly on canned foods, this NJ based group has been supporting and has supported local farmers.
2. Elijah’s Promise also supports the Eat Local Challenge. The Eat Local Challenge helps promote eating foods that are produced or served within 100 miles of New Brunswick. What this emphasis on local appears to do, is ground the good work this organization does, in the community it serves. They also promote other organizations who have similar programs. The groups have web-sites with names like www.eatlocal.net or wwweatlocalchallenge.com which is promoted by the "Jersey Fresh" program at the NJ Department of Agriculture.
As part of its Eat Local initiative, Elijah\'s Promise holds events for the community that profile food producing businesses. A small fee is charged which goes toward support of the non-profit\'s programs.
The two events listed below are indicative of the events they offer as " Eat Local Challenge" events."
July 18, 2011 – Garden Tour and Tasting at Earth Center in Davidson Mill Pond Park featuring Chef Claudette Herring of Via 45 in Red Bank, New Jersey Suggested donation: $15
July 21, 2011 – Promise Culinary School – Tribute to Local Ingredients open house and tasting at 211 Livingston Ave, New Brunswick. Time: TBA Suggested donation: $15 adults, $5 kids
3. In addition to serving food that uses local ingredient, promotes local growers and vendors, Elijah\'s Promise also teaches people how to cook it through their "Promise Jobs Culinary School" which trains people and then places them for jobs at various local restaurants.
This is a valuable service for local restaurants and also the disadvantaged individuals who opt to be trained. Further the school is accredited by the NJ Department of Education as well as the NJ Department of Labor & Workforce Development.
4. The Culinary School also makes it possible for the non-profit to have a catering service that provides foods for local programs like "Meals on Wheels" as well as local daycare centers. The money earned at this enterprise goes back into supporting Elijah\'s Promise.
5. Elijah\'s Promise also helped one of its clients who is visually impaired develop entrepreneurial skills and open a Cafe where clients pay what they can afford or what they want to give. The individual who ran the project was referred through the relationship the organization had with the NJ Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
As for Elijah\'s Promise and its core service, nourishing the community, there is clearly a crying need. Even though New Jersey is the second richest state in the nation with a median per capita income of $64,918 (2010 census data) the state\'s statistics on the incidence of hunger are startling.
- 11.5% of New Jersey households are food insecure according to Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), a national anti-hunger advocacy organization.That’s 1 in 9 people who are hungry.
- 317,819 children received food stamps in 2010 according to the NJ Kids County 2011 Report (a 58% increase from 2006-2010)
- In NJ, only 37.6% of eligible children receiving free or reduced price school lunch, were also receiving breakfast according to a report released in January 2011 by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC)
N.J. regrettably ranks among the bottom ten states in the nation in school breakfast participation among low-income children (46th actually)*.
Elijah\'s Promise is one of the organizations that is working towards solving this problem. As a soup kitchen it serves an average of 300 meals a day (twice a day on weekdays, on once on weekends). They even have a "bag meal"program for those who cannot make it to the kitchen during regular serving hours.
Not surprisingly, the Soup Kitchen is the prime source of clients for the Social Service Programs that Elijah\'s Promise runs.
"The First Step Addiction Program" provides services like detoxification, treatment and ongoing motivationsal support to recovering addicts.
"The Promise Clinic" is run in support of the needy by the students at the Robert Wood Johnson Hospital .
"The Clothesline" collects and provides clothes for the needy. They have a "Blue Bin" at their offices at 211 Livingstone Road, where gently used clothing can be left for the needy.
Lisanne Finston the CEO of Elijah\'s promise has indeed led this organization into innovative partnership with local businesses. but when she spoke about the organization\'s goal she spoke of a very unbusinesslike end. "Our goal," she said "is to put ourselves out of business." Meanwhile, they\'re working in a purposeful way towards they day when their services will no longer be needed.
Sources for this article: Conversation with Lisanne Finston, CEO of Elijah\'s Promise Their informative web-site at ElijahsPromise.net and a truly moving video that readers can access from their web-site. Demographic data on income rankings by state cane from the 2010 census.