THE B.E.A.T. CENTER OPENS FOR BUSINESS
“Whether you need access to a food pantry, want to learn about health care benefits or social services, or even receive training through our culinary program, this is a place where everyone is welcome. It is in the true spirit of collaboration that we, the community benefit.”
– Jon Bon Jovi, Chairman of the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation
Toms River, NJ (May 10, 2016) – The FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, Peoples Pantry (INSPIRE NJ) and Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation announced today the opening of The B.E.A.T. Center (Bringing Everyone All Together) – a place where families and individuals can access food, job training and resources to help end the cyclical causes of hunger in Ocean County.
This “one-stop shop” will serve as a FoodBank satellite location that includes a food distribution center, production kitchen for at-risk children in after school programs, culinary skills training program and resources such as SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program also known as food stamps), healthcare and free tax preparation, as well as the permanent home of Peoples Pantry, a client-choice model food pantry and a second location of JBJ Soul Kitchen, a non-profit community restaurant where diners can pay for their meal by making a minimum donation of $10 or volunteering to work in the kitchen and restaurant.
“The B.E.A.T. Center functions like a 21st century town square where programs and services are brought together and where the community can gather to get help and give help,” said FoodBank Executive Director, Carlos Rodriguez. “We know that there are 1 in 8 people in Ocean County who struggle with hunger. We support 134 feeding programs in Ocean County and the need for resources beyond food is critical. We aim to shorten the food lines by providing a variety of resources that lead to financial health and well-being. Having all of that under one roof is a game changer.”
Ocean County is New Jersey’s fastest growing county and was “ground zero” for Hurricane Sandy. According to FEMA, over 40,000 structures in the county were damaged or destroyed in the storm – 55% of the state’s total. The creation of The B.E.A.T. Center is in response to the reality that today, more than three years after the storm, there are thousands of families who are still struggling to regain housing, financial stability and to overcome food insecurity—and they are turning to local agencies in record numbers for assistance.
“Of all of the lessons learned from Sandy, the most jarring one was how financially stretched our middle class neighbors are. This collaboration will allow us to continue our work and provide the services that are so desperately needed and deserved by this under served demographic,” said Patricia Donaghue, Executive Director of The Peoples Pantry (INSPIRE NJ).
Ocean County Hunger Facts:
- 1 in 5 Ocean County residents are low-income (200% of poverty) or poor (at or below poverty) – that’s $15,000 for a family of 4.
- 71,300 residents, or 1 in 8 people in Ocean County receive food and benefits.
- Seniors make up 21.4% of the population compared to the 14.1% statewide.
- Nearly 13% of New Jersey’s veterans live in Ocean County.
- There are 134 feeding programs in Ocean County. Programs include Pantries, Mobile Sites, Soup Kitchens, Shelters, After School and Back Pack, Senior Food and others.
The impact of this collaboration is projected to provide $5 million in support to families in need in its first year. One of The B.E.A.T. Center’s goals is to also establish a strong, visible presence in Ocean County that will raise hunger awareness, attract volunteers and advocates, and encourage food donations and financial support. The B.E.A.T. Center is being launched with initial philanthropic support from The David Tepper Foundation, and a generous grant from the OceanFirst Foundation.
“We are excited to be involved in the creation of the B.E.A.T. Center,” said David Tepper, founder of the David Tepper Charitable Foundation, Inc. “This is a unique partnership and fresh approach to meeting the needs of those members of our community that are suffering economic hardship. The B.E.A.T. Center brings a combination of critical yet basic services under one roof and provides our citizens with a central location where they can get the help they need. It’s a tremendous concept and we are confident that facilities like the B.E.A.T. Center can become a model to help families attain food security and financial stability.”
The B.E.A.T. Center is now open to the public. It is located at 1769 Hooper Avenue, Toms River, NJ, and is accessible by public transportation. For more information and to learn how to help, please visit www.thebeatcenter.org.