As part of our series of Sunday Platforms featuring people who put their time and work into making the world a better place, this past Sunday’s Platform featured Carlos Rodriguez, President and CEO of the Community FoodBank of New Jersey (CFBNJ), who was interviewed by Bergen Society member David Bland about the work CFBNJ and his own background in the non-profit world.
Carlos did not start out in the non-profit world, he started out in the business world but soon switched over to the non-profit arena, finding it more personally rewarding. He began with Foodchange, Inc. in 1995 which offered a variety of social welfare programs including food distribution to the poor. From there he went to the Children’s Defense Fund, the Food Bank of New York City, the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties and finally to CFBNJ where he has been CEO for about a year and a half.
The principal mission of CFBNJ is to “provide food for people in need while striving to end hunger in our state. We do this by working with a large network of more than one thousand community partners, including food pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters, to bring food to our food-insecure neighbors.” Some 900,000 New Jerseyans go hungry every day in New Jersey, including 260,000 children. To help fight this, CFBNJ has a huge food distribution network centered in Hillside, NJ as well as a smaller center in Egg Harbor and much of this food is donated by their corporate partners including Stop&Shop, BJ’s, King’s and Wakefern Foods (the parent of ShopRite and other food chains).
In addition, CSFBNJ runs a culinary program, the “Food Service Training Academy (FSTA)” which is a free, 15 week program designed not only to give students marketable skills in the culinary industry. Many of these students have had haphazard employment histories and even criminal records so the program teaches life skills as well as skills in the kitchen.
All this began over 40 years ago when founder Kathleen DiChiara began distributing food to the needy in Newark – out of the back of her station wagon! Today, the Hillside warehouse alone ships over 40,000,000 lbs of food annually.