(Blackwood, NJ) – On Monday, the Board of Commissioners unveiled the Mary Ann Wardlow Center for Community Nutrition, a $5 million project that aims to combat food insecurity in Camden County through our meals on wheels program.
The facility was created to expand upon the county’s growing need for home delivered meals to residents. The new space is 7,500 square feet and supports meal assembly and distribution services for the home delivery program and houses supporting staff areas, frozen and refrigerated food storage and dry goods storage all under one roof.
Right now, the program serves more than 2,000 clients, which is 846 more clients than last year, and the county has three congregate nutrition sites in Lawnside, Blackwood and Pine Hill, that are at max capacity.
“Food insecurity is an unfortunate obstacle that too many of our residents are struggling with,” said Commissioner Director Louis Cappelli Jr. “This facility will allow our meal services to run smoother and reach more residents, as we take on more and more clients by the year. With a larger and more high-tech facility, we have a real shot at knocking out food insecurity within our county.”
The building will be named after a tireless nutrition activist, Lawnside Mayor Mary Ann Wardlow, who has been a long-time organizer and advocate for Meals on Wheels. Wardlow was instrumental in creating a congregate site offering nutritional programs to her town, at The Wayne Bryant Community Center, making it a priority to bring nutritional food to her constituents.
“This program is a lifeline to our residents on a regular day, but during COVID Meals on Wheels became a life-or-death service for our seniors and our neighbors with disabilities,” Wardlow said. “I want to thank the county for this honor, and I could not be prouder to have my name on a building serving such a critical service in our community.”
The project was funded by a combination of Community Development Block Grants, American Rescue Plan funds and a grant from Congressman Donald Norcross.
“I’m proud to have secured funding to ensure that no one in our community goes hungry,” Congressman Donald Norcross said. “Camden County has done great work to tackle food insecurity. This new and improved nutrition hub facility will expand the reach of the current food program and better serve families and seniors throughout our community. I will continue to fight in Congress for funding to reduce food insecurity in South Jersey and around the nation.”
Alan Jenson’s family has been a recipient of the Meals on Wheels program for several years. His mom, Lisle, who is home bound, is still receiving the packages and he talked about the impact that these meals have had on his mom and previously both his mom and deceased father, George.
“Prior to the pandemic, especially during it and after it the Meals on Wheels program was a god send for us as a family,” Jenson said. “My mom is unable to leave her house, so getting these meals makes life sustainable and provides her with a level of freedom without having to leave her home.”
It is estimated that by 2025, the Camden County Nutrition Hub will be serving 300,000 meals per year.
“Nutrition is a vital component to public health,” said Camden County Health Officer Paschal Nwako. “With this upgraded facility, we can feed more people and improve the overall health of our communities across the county. I am proud of the work we are doing here in Camden County to fight food insecurity and improve public health.”