Lunch Break holds groundbreaking ceremony for expansion project


RED BANK — As Lunch Break endeavors to support mounting requests from individuals seeking basic necessities and job skills training, a dream to expand its current overcrowded facility came to fruition during a groundbreaking ceremony on April 28 at the facility, 121 Drs James Parker Blvd., Red Bank.

During the event, which commemorated the founding principles and mission of this 39-year-old social service organization, while touching on its future direction, Lunch Break welcomed New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy, among the many state and local dignitaries and leaders, community members and Lunch Break Board, staff and volunteers offering their support of the expansion, according to a press release.

The groundbreaking was the first major step in a $12 million Capital Campaign expansion, which received unanimous approval from the Red Bank Zoning Board of Adjustment in 2021.

Construction is expected to begin in the summer, during which operations, including meal and Client Choice Pantry services, warehouse, administration and development, will be temporarily relocated. Client services are expected to continue uninterrupted, according to the press release.

Updates on construction progress and Lunch Break services will be posted to and Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, @lunchbreaknj.

In 2021, Lunch Break continued to witness a rise in demand for groceries, and an increase in visitors arriving for Continental breakfast and lunch, served six days a week, and Friday Community Dinners, according to the press release.

The resource center sought this expansion to advance its mission to meet the unrelenting need experienced both prior to and during the coronavirus pandemic.

“As we have said since the beginning, Lunch Break will not miss a meal and we will honor this promise throughout the construction process,” Executive Director Gwendolyn Love said.

The trends Lunch Break administrators have seen mirror the national and state picture: 38 million Americans experienced hunger in 2020; and in the continuing COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, 42 million people, 13 million of them children, may face hunger in the upcoming months, according to the press release.

Lunch Break’s kitchen served more than 89,000 grab-and-go meals during 2021 and its Client Choice Pantry provided more than 19,000 grocery pickups, as well as meal deliveries made to homebound and displaced families.

As many as 100 people a month attend the Lunch Break Life Skills Center’s coaching sessions, and in 2021 more than 30 participants per month went on to get jobs.

The Life Skills Center in Shrewsbury is home base for training services, from resume review and GED testing preparation, to English as a Second Language and tutoring for people of all ages.

The services include training for job interviewing and public speaking, sharpening computer skills, household budgeting and goal planning, among others, according to the press release.

In 2021, Lunch Break launched the  Alliance For Success program, a youth initiative for at-risk junior high school and senior high school students in need of college prep guidance or vocational training, as well as a nutrition program designed to offer clients and guests more healthy grocery and meal options as a means to preventive healthcare and community wellness, according to the press release.

Lunch Break is prepared to help people with other critical needs, including the COVID-19 Emergency Fund which, since last year, has provided financial assistance and gift cards to help more than 1,000 individuals pay urgent living expenses, including utility bills.

To those seeking assistance from Lunch Break, Love offers a promise of hope: “There are no limits to what you can do and become. If you are willing to do the work, we will help you get through barriers so you can achieve your best life. Your success is a success for the whole community.”

The expansion of Lunch Break’s cramped quarters will enable volunteers and staff members to serve more people, more efficiently, and to more safely accept truck deliveries and individual donations, according to the press release.

Lunch Break began a Capital Campaign in 2021 with a goal of raising $12 million in donor contributions. The $12 million cost estimate is based on a comprehensive facility requirement study. With the generous support of individuals, foundations and businesses, Lunch Break is nearing its goal, according to the press release.

“The groundbreaking was a culmination of many hands working together to bring this vision to life. I am so proud to be a part of Lunch Break’s continuously evolving journey to better serve the community,” Love said.

To better accommodate Lunch Break services and new initiatives, including the merger with nonprofit Family Promise of Monmouth County, as well more warehouse and operations space, the plans, prepared by architects Kellenyi Johnson Wagner, call for a two-story addition which, in total, will add 13,710 square feet to the building’s original 12,300-square-foot design, providing for a loading dock and more space for truck parking and safer and easier off-loading of deliveries.

The renovation will help the resource center better serve clients in Monmouth County and beyond, and to welcome new visitors suffering hardship and urgent need, according to the press release.