Founded in 1960, Appel Farm is a non-profit arts education center situated on 125 acres of farmland in Salem County, NJ. Appel Farm began as a summer day camp for the children of founders Claire and Albert Appel, and today, it proudly is the home of an overnight Appel Farm Arts Camp and the Creativity CoLaboratory Charter School, an arts-integrated middle school with 144 students in 5th-8th grades.
In addition, Appel Farm is active in the community, playing an integral part in bringing arts education to South Jersey, such as working with art teachers across districts and hosting curricular art programs.
The foundation of Appel Farm’s mission is their “strength in gathering diverse and inclusive communities,” Jennie Quinn, Appel Farm’s Public Outreach Director, says.
However, with the COVID-19 pandemic, gatherings were restricted, which meant Appel Farm had to “refund, reimagine, and/or reschedule” multiple programs, Quinn elaborates.
This did not faze Appel Farm, and they went to work immediately to bring their school programs virtually and create additional free/low-cost virtual programming for the community.
Furthermore, an integral part of their program is food. Under normal circumstances, they hire food service staff to serve three nutritious meals per day for camp and lunch and snacks for school.
Last year, Appel Farm became a Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) sponsor to serve multiple campers who were on scholarships. Staff works
with each of the campers to submit the necessary paperwork, with the goal of including as many families as possible.
The 2020 summer was the first time in 60 years that Appel Farm’s overnight camp could not open, which meant the teaching garden and dining hall would not be used. Appel Farm decided to find new use for their two biggest assets. They turned the teaching garden into a community garden to provide fresh produce and the dining hall into a place to feed families.
Through the combination of multiple grants, Appel Farm was able to expand their food program to serve anyone who needed food in the community – no questions asked.
With the New Jersey Child Nutrition Fund (NJCNF) COVID-19 Emergency Meal Grant specifically, Appel Farm was able to expand their food capacity through increasing personnel and purchasing additional supplies, food, and equipment.
Families picked up their meal kits weekly, a hybrid of meals associated with the SFSP program as well as additional groceries, which include fresh produce from the garden and milk. Appel Farm estimates serving approximately 300 meals weekly.
Implementing this food program on such a large scale allowed Appel Farm to recognize the potential of this program. They also connected with the community in new ways, such as supplying food for a local food pantry and a group home.
“We can continue to feed our community beyond this pandemic – we can provide all year round because we have such important resources. This is the first time we are really utilizing [our resources] to its potential,” said Natasha Thompson, Program Operations Director at Appel Farms .
ABOUT NJ CHILD NUTRITION FUND (NJCNF)
NJCNF aims to increase the number of low-income children receiving meals through the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) and the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). Additionally, NJCNF seeks to facilitate the use of fresh, local and ethnically appropriate food whenever possible.
In the summer of 2020, Reinvestment Fund used NJCNF resources to offer emergency meal grants to meet the immediate capital and operational needs of organizations as they worked to respond to the evolving pandemic-related crisis.
The New Jersey Child Nutrition Fund initiative is supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.