Toni’s Kitchen, a food ministry of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Montclair, is pleased to announce a new initiative to ensure local residents have reliable access to healthy food. Beginning the week of March 1st, Toni’s Café will make regular rounds in the Montclair community. The mobile Café will offer on-the-go meals of hot soups, sandwiches and coffee to local residents. In addition, the Café will carry microwavable meals prepared at Toni’s Kitchen for residents to take home for future use. Additiional routes are also being planned for Bloomfield.
This project was initiated by then-MKA student Naren Rajani who learned of Toni’s Kitchen’s interest in launching a food truck last year. Rajani organized multiple fundraisers to raise money to launch a mobile café. Rajani also partnered with Rich Brown, an active member of the Toni’s Kitchen Advisory Committee, to work through the many logistics needed to bring the idea to life.
“This initiative is an important addition to the Toni’s Kitchen program offering,” explains Rich Brown. “Our goal at Toni’s Kitchen is to recognize the diversity inherent in food insecure populations and to make healthy food easily accessible.” Naren Rajani, now a student at Georgetown University, agrees. “It has been so exciting to help bring this project to life,” said Rajani. “We have taken the Café out on several test runs and the community response is amazing!”
On one test run, Brown and Rajani met a local resident who was unable to take additional meals because there was no refrigeration in their home. This resident is a grandparent raising their grandchild alone. Brown and Rajani worked with Home Depot in Clifton to arrange for a new fridge to be delivered the next week.
"Toni’s Kitchen will be hiring a part-time social worker to help run Toni’s Café to ensure needs such as this are noticed and swiftly acted upon,” said Anne Mernin, Executive Director of Toni’s Kitchen. “Food outreach is one of the most effective ways to connect with neighbors, identify needs and act to remove simple barriers to healthy daily life.”
Toni’s Kitchen is especially grateful to Montclair Community Police Officer Garth Guthrie and the Montclair Police Department as a whole for the support they have provided. Police Officer Guthrie has worked with Toni’s Kitchen to ensure some residents with needs that might not be visible are being introduced to Toni’s Café and connected to its services.