Feeding Middlesex County:
August 2022
Olivia’s Garden
The new item available this summer from the REPLENISH food bank is the yield of a literal gardener.

Growing this year are nine different varieties of herbs that are given to clients. It’s a pilot project of Program Assistant Olivia Forte-Gardner of REPLENISH. Although she’s got one fewer “e” in her name, that’s right: her name is (in part) Gardner.

While she grows in many containers at home as well, Forte-Gardner uses her green thumb this season to produce bags of assorted herbs. Those bags, about 30 herbs every few weeks, ultimately go to individual households through local food pantries that are supplied by REPLENISH. The bags, about the size of a grocery produce bag, hold enough for about 1-2 meals. They have quickly become some of the more sought-after items when they’re available.

“They are gone right away,” Forte-Gardner says with some surprise, and pride. She sets up the bags on different distribution days, so a larger breadth of agencies have a shot at them. REPLENISH has different agencies picking food up every weekday.
“My first love is plants,” Forte-Gardner said. “So growing something, right at our site, that can be a benefit to cooking on a shoestring budget... well, that makes me even happier to be working here."

The beauty of this offering is that it offsets the high cost of herbs at the supermarket for cooks who want to supplement their meals. 

“It costs like $2- $3 for fresh herbs,” she says of the little plastic packs available in stores. “So this frees up that money. That could be cereal, beans, or meat,” she explains. Not to miss the obvious, she said, “It adds flavor.”

The plantings consist of Spanish and European oregano, mint, cilantro, sage, rosemary, thyme, parsley, and of course the requisite basil. There are about 20 pots of varying sizes at the food bank, based in East Brunswick. They are tucked into pallets, leaning against the back wall, with a nourishing southern exposure. The herbs get a hardy trim at each harvest, to encourage growth.

This small crop is an outgrowth of the Tom Ellison Memorial Garden, named for a long-time food bank worker who started the garden many years ago out of his passions for gardening and giving. Tom passed away in 2020 after a valiant battle with cancer. The roughly 20-by-10-foot garden, with several varieties of vegetables, is still growing strong, thanks to the dedication of Warehouse Manager Alberto Peña, who ensures the garden is watered and tended every day, even weekends.  

Olivia’s herb patch is yet another successful program of REPLENISH, which is supported by Feeding Middlesex County. Forte-Gardner said she has a request for more cilantro, so she’s re-planting from harvested seed.

[article written by FMC Communications Committee member George Francy]
A Closer Look at FMC's 2021 Challenges
Newly posted on the FMC website is the 2021 annual report. Given the changing challenges last year, transitioning from COVID-19 protocols to a new normal, the report explains how FMC answered the call and maintained the flexibility necessary to face new challenges.

If you are a donor, you will be interested in the financial section of the report. It shows the amount and sources of donations, and it displays how the donations were turned into food purchases and grants for county food pantries.

All of the basic information about FMC is included in the report such as our vision and mission, our board of directors, our committees and the events of 2021. Most importantly, looking forward, the report includes FMC’s goals for 2022.

So please check out the latest annual report and see how, with your help, we continued in the fight against food insecurity in Middlesex County in 2021.
Thank You, Roy!
Roy Brinson has been volunteering at Zion Hill Baptist Church’s food pantry in Piscataway for 7 years. He has consistently been picking up donated food at REPLENISH and then working with other volunteers to distribute the food from the church food pantry. We bid Roy a fond farewell as he has joined family members in a move to Georgia.

Roy’s commitment to helping hungry neighbors is deeply rooted in his own experience in homelessness, and he is determined to help those who are without food and shelter. 

The volunteers and staff at REPLENISH will certainly miss Roy as he was always helpful in every way during distribution days. We all wish him a good life in Georgia, and there is no doubt he will become involved in fighting hunger near his new home.

[article written by FMC Communications Committee member George Francy]
Mark Your Calendar: Event Reminders
September is Hunger Action Month!
Lots of events, activities and food drives
will be planned in honor of Hunger Action Month.
Save the Date for these exciting events:

Visit our Events Calendar to see what else is in store for
Feeding Middlesex County and REPLENISH!
How Can You Make a Difference?
  1. Visit our Take Action page to see how you can get involved --> Make an Impact
  2. Volunteer at an Upcoming Event --> Sign Up NOW
  3. Donate while you Shop on Amazon --> Connect with Amazon Smile
P.O. Box 781
Edison, N.J. 08818
T: 732-723-8106