NAIOP New Jersey collected more than $4,000 in cash and 1,100 pounds of food for the Community FoodBank of New Jersey in late July as part of its 2019 Community Action Project. It was the 10th consecutive year that the commercial real estate development association has partnered with CFBNJ on the project, drawing more than 120 volunteers from 36 member companies of NAIOP. – Courtesy: NAIOP New Jersey
By Michael G. McGuinness and Barbara Morford
Conventional wisdom would say that the less you give, the more you have. Paradoxically, the reverse is true. “The more you give, the more you have. Abundance creates the ability to give; giving creates more abundance” (The Ultimate Gift by Jim Stovall).
Times are good now for the commercial and industrial real estate industry. Rising rents, decreasing vacancies, low unemployment and a renewed interest in cleaning up and redeveloping our legacy properties throughout New Jersey is generating an abundance of activity. Commercial real estate professionals that comprise NAIOP — developers, brokers, attorneys, financiers, engineers, bankers, architects, environmental consultants and other service providers — are an integral component in these successful economic development projects. They are helping to make the necessary infrastructure investments to transform our neighborhoods into vibrant places where people want to live, work and play.
These same industry professionals also are doing great things for our fellow New Jerseyans with NAIOP’s Community Action projects that have evolved from the creation of parks and playgrounds to the annual volunteer day and food drive for the Community FoodBank of NJ (CFBNJ) and the Developing Leaders volunteer day for Habitat for Humanity. As I write this column, people across the country are participating in “Giving Tuesday,” which was created in 2012 as a simple idea: a day that encourages people to do good. Over the past seven years, it has grown into a global movement that inspires hundreds of millions of people to give, collaborate and celebrate generosity. I can assure you that no donation yields a greater ROI than a gift to fight hunger.
According to Doctors Without Borders, malnutrition is the greatest threat to the world’s public health, even here in New Jersey. Nearly 1 million of our neighbors suffer from hunger, and nearly 270,000 of them are children. Over 70 percent of food insecure New Jerseyans are forced to make the impossible choice between food, shelter and medicine.
The good news is that hunger is solvable if we work together. As Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin was introducing a package of anti-hunger bills last fall, NAIOP kicked off its new 1 Million Meals for NJ campaign with a goal of raising $333,333 to fund 1 million meals for our hungry neighbors (every $1 donated equals three meals). Both efforts have yielded tremendous results. NAIOP and CFBNJ CEO Carlos Rodriguez advocated for Speaker Coughlin’s anti-hunger legislation. Signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy in May were measures to reduce food waste, address food deserts, facilitate donations, tackle hunger on college campuses and create new resources to connect residents with emergency food services, among other initiatives.
To date, 1 Million Meals has raised over $300,000 for the Community FoodBank, the state’s largest anti-hunger and anti-poverty organization, providing food to 16 out of 21 counties in New Jersey directly and through Partner Distribution Organizations. These include Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Morris, Passaic, Somerset, Union, Hunterdon, Sussex, Warren, and Mercer counties. CFBNJ works with more than 1,000 community partners — including soup kitchens, food pantries and emergency shelters — that help get food to hungry people in their communities. Last year over 60 million pounds of food were distributed, which is equal to more than 50 million meals.
This amazing organization ensures that kids have the nutrition they need to learn and thrive, feeds seniors and the working poor and trains people for food industry careers. The FoodBank’s greatest wish is to end hunger through job training and food support, and every one of us can help make that happen. Hunger exists in every county, city and town throughout New Jersey, from the poorest neighborhoods to the most affluent. CFBNJ’s programs provide individualized approaches that address the needs of specific demographics. Research has shown that hunger in children impedes their learning and overall development. This needs to be addressed so that “hope is born in the faces of children” (A Christmas Poem nu Maya Angelou,).
“Our child feeding programs provide summer meals, supplemental food for the weekend and after-school meals,” said Rodriguez, who was featured in a recent CBS News report highlighting the critical need to provide nutritious dinners to students. “Although there has been a 34 percent increase over the last three years in the number of children taking advantage of after-school meals, there are still nearly 13,000 eligible students who do not receive supper after school hours.”
Other targeted initiatives include programs that address hunger as a health issue, senior feeding programs, college pantries and programs that address the specific needs of South Jersey, which has some of the highest food insecurity rates in the state. In addition, CFBNJ’s Food Service Training Academy provides nutrition education and job placement assistance in the culinary industry, and the SNAP Outreach program helps residents in need access the food assistance that they need to bolster their household budgets.
NAIOP members who have toured the FoodBank and participated in the volunteer projects find the experience humbling and eye opening. Ed Russo, CEO of Russo Development, noted, “We cannot truly be successful without giving back and improving the communities which we become a part of and call home. Together with the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, Russo Development is committed to making an impact towards eliminating hunger in our state.” The Russo Family Foundation is the top donor to 1 Million Meals: major donors include Cushman & Wakefield of NJ, Alfred Sanzari Enterprises, Branca Properties, Dermody Properties, Forsgate Industrial Properties, Matrix Development Group, KRE Group, Woodmont Properties, Elberon Development Group, Rockefeller Group, Vision Real Estate Partners, J.G. Petrucci Co. Inc. and Federal Business Centers. Their generosity is overwhelming. The anti-hunger campaign is only $20,000 shy of making goal!
It bears repeating that times have been VERY good for the commercial real estate industry. As you plan for holiday meals, don’t forget your neighbors that won’t have enough to eat today. Please consider donating to 1 Million Meals for NJ (http://support.cfbnj.org/naiop, or call Barbara Morford at 732-729-9900 for an offline donation form), and encourage your colleagues, friends and family to give, too. As Jim Stovall said in The Ultimate Gift, “The only way you can truly get more out of life for yourself is to give part of yourself away.” Be generous till it hurts. ’Tis the Season.
Michael McGuinness is CEO of NAIOP New Jersey and has led the commercial real estate development association since 1997. Barbara Morford is NAIOP New Jersey’s senior director policy and communications. NAIOP represents developers, owners, asset managers and investors of commercial, industrial and mixed-use properties, with 830 members in New Jersey and over 19,000 members throughout North America.