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Jul 07, 2020

Compañeros de Comida Helps those in Need

By Lori Draz

Charlotte Stant

Several months ago, community members from the Two River area began an exciting new collaboration. A community grant program was initiated by Lunch Break to offer financial assistance to families in need. At that time, Itzel Perez, of American Friends Service Committee; Isabel Escalante, of St. Thomas Church; Charlotte Stant, rising senior at Rumson-Fair Haven High School; and Risa Clay, retired Red Bank Regional High School principal and current Tinton Falls councilwoman, began working with the Greater Red Bank Women’s Initiative’s (GRBWI) Immigration Committee to assist identified families in completing their applications.

Once families’ needs were identified, Stant, 17, of Fair Haven, began organizing a group, which came to be called Compañeros de Comida, to address the needs of a large group of Red Bank families who could not access the food banks because they were compromised by the virus.

Stant began with a social media fundraising campaign that earned the new group more than $5,000 and more than 2,000 items of food in less than two weeks. The Source Foundation at Red Bank Regional High School joined forces with Companeros de Comida in order to help more community members in Red Bank that have been impacted by the pandemic.

Source Supervisor Suzanne Keller said, “It is so great when schools and community organizations can come together to meet the needs of people. The Source Foundation has been able to promote the initiative, ensure food is getting to those who need it and provide a platform for giving.”

The Greater Red Bank Women’s Initiative has also been collecting food and money for food shopping. The RFH Key Club began offering students community service hours for food donations. Pinwheel Place, a nonprofit crisis nursery, began donating diapers and formula. As a result of this joint community effort, Compañeros de Comida is now feeding 40 families a week, seven days’ worth of food. Some families have even been adopted by a donor who fills their specified shopping lists each week.

Compañeros de Comida’s goal is to provide 12 weeks of food deliveries during school summer breaks and States of Emergencies. The hope is that families will be back on their feet after those 12 weeks; if not, they will be referred to a community agency for long-term services. Stant’s hope for the future is to add a toy and book drive in the winter and the delivery of baby starter packs when a baby is born. As of mid-June, the organization has delivered more than 29,000 meals and helped 10 families achieve food security. They have also received nonprofit status and are most proud and grateful for the 15 to 20 volunteers who work each week to keep the donations going. Compañeros de Comida held a successful “STOCK THE SHELVES” food drive on June 19 in the parking lot behind the Fair Haven Acme. Stant thanks everyone for the impressive donations and their continued support. She recently received a $5,000 check from Patrick and Roseann McGeehin to help run the program through the summer. Compañeros de Comida also received generous donations from Stuart B. Cooper, the Tinton Falls Rotary, and many community members, organizations and classmates.

“Today, more than ever, our local food banks are stretched beyond capacity,” Clay said. “This collaboration of providers from the Two River Area strengthens the bonds so that sustainability and ultimately independence can be achieved.”

For more information or to make a tax-deductible donation, visit rbrhs.org/Page/1577 or follow @companerosdecomida on Instagram.