Edison teen creates food pantries to help those in need make healthier choices

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EDISON – Ever since she was young, Sneha Deb was drawn to helping those in need.

So selecting a focus for her Girl Scout Gold Award project as a member of Girl Scout Troop 80752 of Edison and Metuchen came with ease.

“I immediately knew I wanted to help the less fortunate,” she said.

Deb, who graduated from John P. Stevens High School in June and is headed to Rutgers University, earned a Gold Award for working on a project, which spanned 80 hours during the summers of 2018 and 2019. Her project created and supplied a food pantry for the community within the Making It Possible to End Homelessness’s (MIPH) Permanent Supportive Housing program based in Edison.

She worked with Melissa Mascolo, advisor at MIPH, to start the pantries at Imani Park in Piscataway and at Amandla Crossing in Edison, created a system to engage the local community for its continued supply of essential items, and held a workshop for the program’s staff and program’s parents on the importance of nutrition, especially for children.

“My goal was to teach and offer tips on obesity prevention,” she said. “I created a Power Point, a ‘Jeopardy’ game and provided fruit cups and granola bars [during the presentation].”

She said healthy eating habits are hard for the working poor, who may rely on cheaper quick alternatives. Poor eating habits lead to obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure.

As part of the project she worked on connecting MIPH volunteers with Middlesex County Food Organization and Outreach Distribution Services (MCFOODS) to help supply the food pantries once a month.

“I didn’t want to just do a presentation, I wanted to actually provide a place for people to go to [when they encounter times of emergency],” Deb said, which helped her project achieve sustainability.

Deb said she received great feedback from a survey on the effects of her presentation, which she left for those at MIPH, and the creation of the food pantries for those in need.

MCFOODS was created in 1994 to help achieve food security and provide access to nutritionally adequate food and other basic necessities to all residents in Middlesex County. The program expanded from operating out of a closet in a park police building in Roosevelt Park in Edison in its early days to its current 5,000-square-foot warehouse in East Brunswick, according to its website.

MCFOODS provides nonperishable foods and necessities to a network of more than 120 partner organizations throughout the 25 towns in Middlesex County to ensure that all residents have access to nutritionally adequate food and necessities at all times.