Clinton Hill is Combating Food Insecurity as a Community

Jan 5, 2021

Newark residents at food distribution location in Clinton Hill.
Credit Clinton Hill Community Action/Greater Newark LISC

As food distribution lines continue to grow by the week, communities across the country are working with their neighbors to support one another. Here in Newark, NJ – Clinton Hill is one of those neighborhoods. At the onset of the pandemic, while traditional food pantries were closed, the Clinton Hill COVID-19 Community Action team would come together and work in partnership with residents to organize immediate relief efforts for Clinton Hill.

According to the New Jersey's Public Health Data Resource, an estimated 100,000 people in Essex County live in food insecure households. From June 2020 until August 2020, 9 Clinton Hill residents took the lead in distributing food to other Newark residents on their block. The COVID team and local partners created a system to distribute the groceries to pantry hosts. Newark residents, Mr. Ali Muslim led the pantry on West Runyon Street and Kisha Ingram serves as the community organizer for Clinton Hill Community Action.

Newark resident helping unload groceries for food distribution.
Credit Halashon Sianipar / Clinton Hill Community Action

Coordinated by Clinton Hill Community Action and Greater Newark LISC, The Clinton Hill COVID-19 Coalition consists of nearly 30 members of residents and local organizations.  Through the Care and Share block pantry project, essential PPE supplies, non-perishable foods, and fresh vegetables were provided to over 200 families every week. While food security remains an extreme challenge many communities face, we can learn from the collaboration of the Clinton Hill COVID-19 Action team. The team came together and worked with as many partners as possible to meet the needs of the community. The spirit of collaboration made an impact on those who were block pantry hosts and for the residents receiving groceries. Ms. Ishan Ali, who led the Vernon Avenue pantry, leveraged the pantry as an opportunity to educate her neighbors on different types of fruits and vegetables and how to prepare them.

Newark residents distributing groceries at local food distribution.
Credit Nii Abladey Otu / Clinton Hill Community Action/Greater Newark LISC

Hedden Terrace’s pantry host, Nii-Abladey Otu turned his block’s weekly food distribution into a family affair with his wife and children. All of the Newark residents who served as block pantry hosts felt it was an honor to care for their neighbors. Nakita Valerio’s viral Facebook post from 2019 says “Shouting ‘self-care’ at people who actually need community care is how we fail people”. Thank you to the residents and local partners in Clinton Hill for creating your own blueprint and legacy through community care.

Are you or someone you know in need of access to food or facing other challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic? Visit NJ 211, Newark COVID resources, Essex County food distribution events and pantries.

To hear the individual stories of Newark residents who were block pantry hosts and their reflections, click here or visit newarkstories.com

A special thanks to:

Clinton Hill Block Pantry Hosts/Team: Marilyn Williams, Nii Abladey Otu, Dr. Robert Austin, Ali Muslim, Elliott Garland, Margaret Kelly Barnes, Ihsan Ali, Halashon Sianipar, Kisha Ingraham

Clinton Hill COVID-19 Action Team: Clinton Hill Community ACTION, Greater Newark LISC, Clinton Hill Block Club Coalition, Beth-Isreal Hospital, Clean Water Action, Rutgers Cornwall Center, PULSE, Pleasant House of Hope CDC, Victoria Foundation, South Newark CDC, Clinton Hill Community & Early Childhood Center, Newark Community Street Team, BRICK Education Network and South Ward Business Improvement District.