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Franklin Food Bank Dedicates New Building, Unveils ‘Client Choice’ Program

Mayor Phil Kramer cuts the ribbon at the Franklin Food Bank’s dedication of its new Churchill Avenue headquarters. To the left of Kramer is Food Bank Executive Director Frank Hasner and Board of Trustees President Elayne Glick.

The Franklin Food Bank on July 14 celebrated the “culmination of a long-term vision” with the grand opening of its new facility on Churchill Avenue.

The new facility, at 7,200 square feet nearly three times the size of the food bank’s former 2,700-square-foot home on Millstone Road, allows the organization to change the way it delivers food to Franklin’s neediest.

Food Bank clients are now able to shop for their food, much like going to a supermarket, instead of having bags of food handed to them.

Called “Client Choice,” the program “allows our clients to essentially choose the food that they’re going to bring home,” said Elayne Glick, president of the food bank’s Board of Trustees.

“This facility allows us to do that and we are so proud of being able to open this facility,” she said. “It helps us to meet our mission of being able to feed our neighbors and treating them with dignity and respect.”

Among those attending the event were Mayor Phil Kramer, Township Councilman Ted Chase (D-Ward 1), Somerset County Deputy Freeholder Patricia Walsh and representatives from other organizations in the township, a fact not overlooked by food bank executive director Frank Hasner.

“The township is represented, the county, business, local people, houses of worship, this is really a community effort,” he said. “We are not a government entity, we are non-profit, but the whole community makes up what we do. We are feeding folks right here in Franklin Township. This non-profit is absolutely dedicated to our town and our neighbors.”

“I just say thank you, this is the culmination for a long-term vision, and we’re standing on your shoulders,” Hasner said.

“It’s so very important that we help those of us who need help,” Kramer said. “It’s fine that we take care of ourselves from day to day, but this is an example of how the people of Franklin take care of others.”

“This is not a government institution, we help them out as much as we can, but they are self-supporting, and your support is what keeps them going on,” he said. “It’s very gratifying, they are adding dignity with this institution because people would be able to choose their food just as you do when go shopping. I think that’s a tremendous step forward.”

Walsh said that the Franklin Food Bank is the first food bank in the county to go to the “client choice” program, but may not be the last.

“I will tell you that they’re all talking about it,” she said of the other county based food banks.

Mike Rossi, head of development for the food bank, said that he overheard a young boy tell his mother that he preferred the new system to the others.

“Our goal obviously is to never be here, for all of us never to have to join together to help those in crisis, that one day that crisis is over,” he said. “Unfortunately, we are not seeing that right now, and so we need more help.”

“We need help to pay for the client choice, so kids can shop like their friends do,” he said. “Kids and their families have a place to go where they can have hope. At the end of the day, isn’t that what we’re really providing, a little bit of hope to people who are making choices that a lot of us don’t have to; Do I pay my electricity bill or do I buy food, how do I afford the rent if I’m buying food.”

Rossi said the food bank is starting an initiative called “Build the Bank,” through which individuals, organizations and corporations could sponsor some part of the food bank’s operation.

Foe example, Rossi said, Tom Del Casale of Del Casale Excavating helped prepare the site’s parking lot, and Diversified Rack and Shelving of West Windsor donated a wall of shelving for the food bank.

Also, he said, Reality RX donated graphic arts services for the Food Bank’s new web site and social media presence.

Hasner led those in attendance on a tour of the new building, pointing out where food will be stored, sorted and where clients will be able to shop.

Hasner said he hoped to someday eliminate the front-office waiting room, where clients come to check in, see what their food eligibility is and wait until they are able to go into the market and shop.

“I’m not necessarily satisfied with that system, I want people to be able to come in, get their ID scanned and go right to shopping,” he said. “It is my goal to get us there.”

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