BORDENTOWN – Sruti Desai, a member of the Bordentown City Green Team and co-manager of the Bordentown Farmers Market, got an unexpected tip from her neighbor late last week.
Her neighbor Brian Strumfels, who is the director of New Jersey Farmers Against Hunger, told Desai that the organization received a large shipment of perishable produce from distribution centers and warehouses and wanted to find a way to quickly get those supplies to people in need.
Both Desai and Strumfels saw the situation as a chance to give back to the Bordentown community and help people who are going through tough times because of the coronavirus pandemic through an opportunity to put food on their tables.
Working with Bordentown City, Bordentown Township and the Bordentown Regional School District, the duo was able to set up a free farmers market in the parking lot of Bordentown Regional High on April 11.
The event was a smashing success, they said, as 8,500 pounds of produce were given out to around 500 families who lined up in the school’s parking more than an hour before the farmers market was supposed to begin.
“It was a magical moment to give back,” Desai said. “We set this all up in a 24-hour time span and reached out to the community. I was happy to see the response we got and the amount of people that came out. I’m proud to be a part of this community.”
Desai spent all of April 10 setting up and spreading word of the event.
She contacted Bordentown City Mayor James Lynch about the idea, and then reached out to the Bordentown Township Administrator Michael Theokas and Bordentown Regional School District Superintendent Ed Forsthoffer.
After speaking to all parties and Bordentown Chief of Police Brian Pesce, the event was launched by Desai all over social media platforms, she said.
About a dozen people volunteered, each wearing a mask and gloves as they delivered food to each car that pulled up.
The event was expected to serve 100-200 cars, Desai said, but that wasn’t the case as cars started to roll up in the high school parking lot around 11:30 a.m. More than 100 cars were turned away by the end of the event, she said.
“It’s very meaningful to see our community come together during these times,” Desai said. “This helped people put food on their tables. It’s not easy for people to just go to the grocery store with the virus going around. Some can’t physically leave their homes and others have been hit hard financially. Especially being that Easter Sunday was the next day, it was nice to have an event where we people could get food to have for the holiday.”
Desai has heard great reviews about the event, saying that volunteers and other Bordentown community residents felt it was heartwarming to see their community is there for them during this time.
The success of the event has Desai hoping to do another free farmers market in the near future. New Jersey Farmers Against Hunger is also looking to do more of these events in Burlington County, Desai said.