By Cathy Padilla |Photo Credit: Mealtime Stories, LLC
When you visit the frozen section of your local supermarket this month you may notice a new line of frozen sides and soups with a familiar oversized ‘O’ on the packaging. Beyond providing something tasty and nutritious, if you choose to purchase an O, That’s Good! product you will be helping a local family have groceries, or a struggling mother do her taxes, or providing job training for an unemployed neighbor through Fulfill, formerly The FoodBank of Monmouth & Ocean Counties.
O, That’s Good! is the first introduction from Mealtime Stories, LLC, a joint venture between media icon Oprah Winfrey and the Kraft Heinz Company. Together, Oprah and Kraft Heinz worked with a team of creative chefs to develop a new refrigerated brand using real ingredients and no artificial flavors or dyes. It’s comfort food with an unexpected nutritious twist and an eye toward giving back to those who need it most.
“I believe in anything you do, you have to think about how you can give back,” said Winfrey. “And to be able to have a portion of O, That’s Good! go back to people who don’t get food at all in the world, just feels like the right thing to do.”
Ten percent of Mealtime Stories’ profits will be equally split between Feeding America and Rise Against Hunger. The Kraft Heinz Company Foundation plans to make annual donations to the two charities on behalf of Mealtime Stories until the joint venture becomes profitable. Feeding America is the parent organization for more than 200 food banks throughout the country, including Fulfill, formerly The FoodBank of Monmouth & Ocean Counties, located in Neptune.
“When someone like Oprah Winfrey creates awareness of hunger in this country, an awareness that reaches down to your local food bank, that’s an amazing gift,” said Carlos Rodriguez, Executive Director of Fulfill. “There’s more than a very good chance that money from the sale of her products will find its way back to Monmouth and Ocean Counties through our programs.”
In May of 2017 the FoodBank officially changed its name to Fulfill to better reflect the organization’s growing mission.
“Our new name reflects that our focus is on more than food distribution. Our name didn’t reflect the full story of everything we do,” said Rodriguez. “Fulfill shows our commitment to fulfill more of the needs of our neighbors and win the battle against hunger. We have an approach that goes beyond providing food and helps those in need get to a place where they can get back on their feet for good. We provide food in an emergency today, but our resources for families help them feed themselves tomorrow.”
Every dollar donated to the charity provides three meals. Due to bulk purchases and operational efficiency, 95¢ of every dollar donated to Fulfill goes directly to food and services. But the services provided may surprise you. It’s not just about food, it’s also about job training, healthcare, and tax preparation.
“We asked ourselves, who are our neighbors in need?” said Rodriguez. “We found most families in need have one member working. They have children. More than half had unpaid medical bills and no insurance. They were just one economic shock from needing help. And more than anything, we found most families were not connecting with the help that is available.”
In order to reduce discomfort in asking for assistance, Fulfill’s Resource Connections Team goes out into the communities to help clients connect to resources that will get them through difficult times. They treat each situation as unique and seek a winning outcome. The Culinary Skills Training Program is a good example of their outside-the-box helping. The program assists adults in need of permanent employment, so they can get the skills necessary for better paying jobs. It helps men and women become self-sufficient through 13 weeks of on-site food preparation and classroom training provided by a certified executive chef. Participants are given the opportunity to receive CPR Certification and ServSafe Food Protection Manager Certification. Graduates also receive help obtaining and keeping jobs in the Shore area hospitality industry.
Another new initiative at Fulfill has been to include more nutritious food and healthier options. This aligns perfectly with Oprah’s mission for Mealtime Stories.
“I love healthy foods and eating from my garden,” said Winfrey. “When Kraft Heinz approached me for a food line, what got my attention is making nutritious comfort foods more accessible to everyone. This product line is real, delicious food with a twist. You’ll feel good about serving it for your family.”
As families gather this month to give thanks, Fulfill will be providing holiday meals to neighbors in need and raising funds to ensure that their programs can continue to provide help and hope. November and December are the two most important months for the charity to receive food and funds that will carry them through all the other months of the year.
“This holiday season we hope you will give thanks by helping others,” said Rodriguez. “I urge our community members to learn more about our programs. Visit our website, take a tour of our facilities. Get a sense of the magnitude of the problem. The problem of hunger is a problem we have the ability to solve. We don’t lack the food, we lack the ability to connect the families in need with the food that is available. With your help, we know Hunger Won’t Win Here.”
For more information, visit fulfillnj.org.
Meet Maxine Nieves
Langosta Lounge – Prep Chef
Graduate of Fulfill Culinary Arts Training Program
“Getting my first paycheck was like a dream…I couldn’t believe I was being paid for something I love doing and am passionate about.”
I grew up in a family that loved to cook and I remember as a child I enjoyed being with my grandfather who had a food truck and sold hot dogs and hamburgers. One of the many things I love about food is the memories that it conjures up of moments long forgotten. I can take a bite of my favorite foods and they transport me back to happy times in my life. But life wasn’t always so easy.
As an adult, I was a licensed cosmetologist and I lost my job during the recession. When my lease ran out and I still couldn’t find work, I had to make the difficult decision to pack up my things and live out of my car. I was hungry and scared and not sure what to do next. Every day was a struggle. I felt I had hit rock bottom and I knew I had to figure something out, so I finally had to push pride aside and utilize the help that was available to me. I had to have enough sustenance to keep going.
I heard about Fulfill’s Culinary Training Program from the JBJ Soul Kitchen, and I knew I had nothing more to fall back on so I applied. It was a life-changing decision. I became the valedictorian and won a scholarship award at graduation. Once you have a sense of pride, you can move forward and your life changes.
That’s what I loved about Fulfill (The Foodbank of Monmouth & Ocean Counties). I want to thank Fulfill for the compassion and for all those who support the program so people like me can stop feeling alone and without hope and move forward and get ahead. Getting my first paycheck was like a dream. I had to pinch myself because I couldn’t believe I was being paid for something I love doing and am passionate about. Now I have a great job at Langosta Lounge in Asbury Park. I would say to others, don’t ever give up hope and don’t be embarrassed to ask for help. Circumstances can be awful, but you can find a way to keep moving forward. The smallest things can make a difference in someone’s life.
How Fulfill Helps Monmouth/Ocean Annually
132,000 people helped
12 million meals served
2.9 million pounds of fresh produce distributed
142,000 meals for Kids through backpack, after-school, and summer programs
11,310 mobile meals to Seniors and Veterans
290 Culinary Program Graduates
$2.2 million in Tax Refund Assistance
$4 million in subsidies for Health Care