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NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—On a hot summer day, guests waited outside Elijah’s promise soup kitchen and were treated to a take out meal of fried chicken, pasta with sausage, onions and kale, and garlic bread and salad.
Most of the food was prepared by Harvest Moon Brewery, a popular downtown New Brunswick eatery and delivered by Soup Kitchen 411, an organization that coordinates deliveries between restaurants and soup kitchens.
In addition to Harvest Moon, other local restaurants, such as Tavern on George and The Rutgers Club in Piscataway and El Toro Loco in South Brunswick, have provided meals, said Dan Knitzer, the publicist for the non-profit organization.
This unique partnership is funded by a grant from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA), which earlier this year awarded $14 million in grants to 27 organizations through its Sustain and Serve NJ program.
The grant serves two separate purposes: supporting New Jersey restaurants hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and providing meals to the many food insecure people in the area.
Neil Glass, the majority owner of Harvest Moon Brewery, said he is thankful to Soup Kitchen 411 for coordinating the delivery of food, which provides meals to those in need and gives an additional revenue stream to his restaurant.
“We at Harvest Moon have always strived to become part of the community at large and this program has made that continue to be possible while aiding us as well,” Glass said. “It’s always great to be in involved in situations where everyone benefits.”
Soup kitchens like Elijah’s Promise are serving more meals than ever before, said Curtis McNair, the Community Soup Kitchen Manager and Executive Chef for Elijah’s Promise.
For example, in May 2019 the New Brunswick based kitchen served about 6,800 meals. After the pandemic struck in 2020, the soup kitchen served over 17,500 meals last May. This May they have distributed nearly 34,000 meals.
“Since the pandemic we are now doing about 1,000 meals a day,” McNair said. “It is triple what we were doing.”
McNair said Elijah’s Promise not only serves walk up guests but now delivers meals through its mobile soup kitchen truck all over Middlesex County, from churches and teen centers in New Brunswick, to locations in Spotswood and East Brunswick.
“A lot of people really appreciate the services we provide,” McNair said.
Jean Peters, a longtime volunteer for at Elijah’s Promise, said that many local partners have stepped in to help the soup kitchen, as not only local restaurants but companies such as Johnson & Johnson and Colgate have also made donations to the kitchen.
“The community has really stepped up,” said Peters, who has returned to volunteering now that she is fully vaccinated.
McNair added that while the soup kitchen is holding off on letting volunteers from the general public return, they are always in need of financial donations, as well as food items. “Demand has gone up so much,” McNair said.
While the soup kitchen is serving many more people than before, Elijah’s Promise continues to have faithful regulars who come every day.
Ismael Soto, a guest who has been coming to the soup kitchen every day for the past six years, said he first began coming to Elijah’s Promise while staying at the nearby Ozanam House men’s shelter and has made himself a regular.
“The food here is great,” Soto said. “The service and the people here – they have a beautiful heart.”