Rutgers Against Hunger At A Glance

By Michael Benavides

December 3, 2014

When it comes to being able to put food on the table and paying the bills, some people can barely afford to do both. Food insecurity and poverty are becoming persistent problems especially in New Jersey. According to the New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition, the food insecurity level in New Jersey was 12.7 percent overall and 19 percent for children in 2011. New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition also stated that about 897,376 people in New Jersey were living below poverty level in 2011.

The organization Rutgers Against Hunger is doing its part to combat hunger in New Jersey more specifically the city of New Brunswick.  As for future events, Rutgers Against Hunger in the Spring of 2015 will be partnering with New Jersey minor league baseball teams to collect food at their stadiums to donate to their food banks in their communities.

Chris Retzko, program manager for Rutgers Against Hunger, said that the program was founded in 2008 in response to the growing problem of hunger in New Brunswick. He also said the president funded the operating budget of the organization with discretionary funds available to his office, a tradition that has been carried forward by the university’s current President Robert Barchi.

Rutgers Against Hunger has done well when it comes to donating food to New Brunswick’s low-income residents as well as the rest of New Jersey.

“Since the start of the organization, we have collected over $220,000 and over 207,000 pounds of food for distribution across the state,” Retzko said.

Rutgers Against Hunger is currently sponsoring it’s Adopt-A-Family program which relies on of Rutgers faculty and staff to donate food and other goods to a sponsored family. “We are in the middle of our Adopt-A-Family program where we are matching university departments, organizations, and individuals to sponsor approximately 250 families in New Brunswick and Newark areas to provide food, clothing and gifts for the holidays,” Retzko said. “It is our largest annual event.”

In addition to Adopt-A-Family program, he said that the Rutgers Against Hunger has also conducted a number of volunteering events at Elijah’s Promise which is located in New Brunswick and the Community Food Bank of New Jersey which is located in Hillside, New Jersey.

“We continuously reach out to the food banks, food pantries, soup kitchens, and emergency shelters in the state to assist them as much as we can,” Retzko said. “We do not have a running goal for donations, but have been successful in surpassing the amounts of food and funds raised each year.”

Retzko said that his organization is working with Move For Hunger, which is a national collaboration of moving companies that donate food from individuals who are undertaking a move and will not be able to use the food that is currently in their home. “Through their fundraising efforts and their fleet of vehicles, they are able to provide us with free boxes for our food drives, and vehicles to transport food across the state,” Retzko said.

When it comes to Retzko’s reason for joining Rutgers Against Hunger, he said that being program manager for the organization gives him a chance to serve his community. “For me, it’s imperative that we give back to those who have not been as fortunate as ourselves,” Retzko said. “You never know if the tide may turn against you and the items in the food bank will be the food that your family needs to help you through a rough patch.”