The program is simple enough: pool money from local businesses and use that to buy food from city restaurants and cafes that would then be delivered to seniors.
“It’s a two-prong initiative. This allows people at restaurants to have income coming in,” said McIver. “And it’s nice we can drop off a free lunch for seniors and they don’t need to leave their home as well.”
The initiative started because local eateries, which can be open for pickup and delivery, are not getting enough customer business due to the lack of office workers in downtown. And there have been numerous news reports of senior citizens who have been too infirm to go and buy food or have trouble finding food at grocery stores, where shelves have been picked bare.
For the program’s initial foray, owners of Pita Square and Halal Guys, both on Halsey Street, are providing between them more than 2,500 meals to seniors during the month of April. Hanini Group, a real estate firm based in Newark, is serving as sponsor. Different senior housing in the Central Ward have been recipients. Bike couriers are delivering the meals along with food being handed out in front of apartment buildings.
Partners in the program plan on contacting other eateries and businesses for interest in helping expand this initiative. They also hope to continue this into May.
“This is an all-hands-on-deck situation,” said McIver. “We want to keep the lights on at local kitchens, which have always been great city ambassadors for Newark, and serve seniors, one of the most vulnerable populations hit hard by this pandemic.”
In addition to this food initiative, McIver said Prudential, the worldwide financial giant and Newark stalwart, has waived rent for its commercial tenants in Downtown Newark, located in the Central Ward. Co-founders of the company that own the New Jersey Devils made a six-figure donation to Newark in order to pay for groceries for needy families. In another food push, Rev. Al Sharpton and the National Action Network has worked with World Central Kitchen, the non-profit group started by celebrity chef Jose Andres, to prepare and deliver food to seniors and underserved populations in the city, said McIver. World Central Kitchen is involved with other organizations in the city.
The city has also kickstarted various programs to provide millions in aid to small businesses and non-profit groups in the city, along with a slate of initiatives that will assist homeowners, arts organizations and other groups. For more on these programs, read here: https://www.newarknj.gov/news
“We must take care of each other. We must do this because people are dying. We must to do this as a Newark family. When we talk about ‘Newark strong’ it means we have to do everything we can to help each other stay alive,” said Mayor Ras Baraka recently.
In late March, Mayor Baraka implemented a strict “shelter-in-place” mandate in order to combat the spread of COVID-19. This strong advisement calls for people to stay home unless it’s for essentials or emergencies. People can still go out for the following: the grocery store, local shops for essentials, the doctor, the pharmacy, dog walking, or for fresh air in front of or back of one’s home. Essential employees are still able to leave their homes for jobs.
Additional Helpful Resources:
Newark NJ Official Website
Newark NJ COVID-19 FAQs
Newark NJ News on COVID-19 Relief Initiatives and Funding
Central Ward Councilwoman LaMonica R. McIver Official Website
Newark Downtown District
National Action Network
New Jersey Chapter of National Action Network Food Drive
World Central Kitchen
Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment