empty pantry

Bare shelves indicate a critical shortage of food items at Lunch Break’s Red Bank facility. The charitable nonprofit that marks 30 years of service in 2013 is putting out the call for more food donations in advance of its October fundraising gala.  (Click to enlarge)

Press release from Lunch Break

Founded in 1983 as the first Monmouth County soup kitchen and pantry by a group of concerned citizens, Lunch Break is currently the largest and most accessible such facility.  Today, Executive Director Gwendolyn Love, her staff, and more than 2,000 volunteers continue that original commitment and so much more — but even as the nonprofit prepares to celebrate 30 years of service to the community, the director points out that “our resources are critically low.”

“With summer vacation over and the push to get kids back to school and the signs of fall popping up everywhere, at Lunch Break the sign of fall is bare shelves in the pantry,” says Love.  “The toughest times of year for us are September and October, as well as February and March, where we face critical shortages. We try to plan for these months, but with the daily increase in demand for our services, when the food is gone, it’s gone.  It’s heart wrenching to plan and not be able to meet the need.”

“Unfortunately, it’s a sign of the times,” said Love.  In a study released last week by the Legal Services of the New Jersey Poverty Research Institute it was concluded that over two million people in New Jersey struggle to meet their basic needs.  This represents a significant increase of over 300,000 since the beginning of the economic recession.

A month ago Lunch Break was forced to reduce the amount of groceries provided to families from the food pantry, prompting Love to oberve that  “it’s an overwhelming feeling…if we don’t get food, people are going to go hungry.  We’re almost to the season of giving, but we’re not quite there yet.”

“In November donations will really start to pick up, but right now, even  though it’s a season of harvest, people just don’t stop to think about the need and that is why we are reaching out to the community.  When people realize the need, they are tremendously generous” said Love.
Giving is very easy and safe by donating funds online at, and we welcome personal checks or cash at the Lunch Break facility.   Monetary donations give us the opportunity to plan meals weeks ahead of time and also give us immense purchasing power.  People can also visit our website for our wish list of food items to be donated.the number of hot meals served has increased over 68 percent in the last few years, and the food pantry distributions have increased a staggering 657  percent.  “Last year we served over 56,000 meals and over 500 families depend on Lunch Break every month for their groceries.  Add to that our homebound program where we deliver meals six days a week to the elderly, ill, weak and disabled, and the numbers combined are frightening.”
Lunch Break also offers cooking classes for children, a summer Community Gardener’s Market, and a back-to-school distribution of backpacks and school supplies.  There is a monthly “Dinner and a Classic Movie” night for the Boys and Girls Club; Thanksgiving and Christmas meals; special Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas food baskets; both toy distributions and and a senior gift program during the holidays; and a monthly dinner night for the community.  Social service providers are hosted on site; there is an internet café for job searches; and following Super Storm Sandy, Lunch Break has become an integral part of local disaster relief efforts.

Love added that many don’t know that Lunch Break is Monmouth County’s first and most accessible soup kitchen and food pantry, and this year celebrates 30 years alleviating hunger.  “Our guests come from near and far—from Keansburg, Keyport, Union Beach, Seaside Heights, Point Pleasant, Neptune, and Asbury Park—to name a few.  We are open six days a week and we are so much more than a meal to so many.”

“Our Suited for Success program last year outfitted over 125 individuals for job interviews, and we accept new and gently used clothing.  We provide families with holiday food baskets at Thanksgiving, Easter and Christmas, we offer cooking classes for children, a toy program for children over the December holidays and we partner with over a dozen local social service organizations to provide health screenings, visual testing, affordable housing referrals, veterans assistance, and more, all in our facility in Red Bank,” said Love.

Tickets are available for the annual Lunch Break Gala, scheduled for October 21 at the Navesink Country Club from 6 to 10 pm.  Lunch Break is located at 121 Drs. James Parker Blvd. in Red Bank, and can be reached at 732-747-8577.  For more information about Lunch Break visit