Home COVID-19 Toni’s Kitchen: Giving Back to the Montclair Community One Meal at a Time

Toni’s Kitchen: Giving Back to the Montclair Community One Meal at a Time

by Gabriela Lachapel O'Brien
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The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic a year ago hit communities with restrictions, fear, and uncertainty. While many businesses and government operations came to a screeching halt, nonprofit and volunteer organizations had to kick their operations into high gear to fill in the gap for those who were struggling in the wake of a shutdown. This was of course in addition to the underserved populations they were already helping in an otherwise stable economy. Toni’s Kitchen was one such organization. After hitting a record in 2019 with 4,365 meals served per week, the output has grown to five times that during COVID-19, serving 20,000 meals per week. Read on to learn more about the mission of Toni’s Kitchen and how you can help.

About Toni’s Kitchen 

tonis kitchen montclair

{Photo credit: @tonis.kitchen}

Toni’s Kitchen was founded in 1982 by a group of parishioners from St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, whose simple mission was to “serve our neighbors in need.”

They borrowed an idea from a nearby soup kitchen in which all guests in search of a hot meal would be served restaurant-style in lieu of the more traditional buffet lines seen elsewhere. To head the kitchen, the group tapped Antoinette “Toni” Green, who was often described as a “spirit-filled and amazing” woman. 

As the organization’s footprint in Montclair continued to grow, so did the services Toni’s Kitchen offered. In addition to providing healthy meals to those in need, they adopted a community partner model to align with other organizations and provide access to resources that encourage and empower people to live with independence, respect, and dignity. This meant offering financial counseling, mental health support, access to medical professionals, and more. 

tonis kitchen montclair

{Photo credit: @tonis.kitchen}

As a side project, Toni’s Kitchen launched Montclair Bounce. Backed by research that proves everyday creative, physical, and social interactions can build resilience, the group holds events for teens and adults that do just that. There is ‘Journaling for Middle Schoolers,’ conversations for adults about stress management and parenting tips, book reviews, and classes for meal prepping for your family. Montclair Bounce also held a festival in May 2019, which spanned over eight days and together with over 100 partners, sponsored over 75 events. 

In 2020, the family grew even larger with the opening of Toni’s Community Closet in Bloomfield.

With donations of gently used clothing, toys, and home items, the homeless, near-homeless, and low-income communities are able to shop for the items needed to ensure they can be met without judgment. 

Read More: Organizations + Non-Profits to Give Back to in Montclair

How Operations Changed in the Face of COVID-19

tonis kitchen montclair

{Photo credit: @tonis.kitchen}

Prior to COVID-19, there were many different programs and avenues through which Toni’s Kitchen would ensure access to a healthy meal for those who needed it. To adapt to all the quarantine guidelines while still reaching all those in need and keeping volunteers safe, they pivoted its hot meal service to takeout only, shopped for groceries available for pickup and limited delivery, and delivered a combination of frozen meals and small groceries to senior citizens unable to leave their residences. 

Most recently, Toni’s Kitchen partnered with Montclair Community Farms and the YMCA of Montclair to teach families how to cook nutritious meals together. Montclair Community Farms will put together a basket of ingredients along with a recipe for families to “shop” from. The baskets are available to pick up for free from Toni’s Kitchen food truck and Montclair Community Farms Mobile Stand outside the YMCA.  

See More: Disability Resources in New Jersey

How You Can Help

tonis kitchen montclair

{Photo credit: @tonis.kitchen}

Toni’s Kitchen is always looking for high school-aged kids and adults to volunteer whether it’s to cook and pack meals, pick up and deliver groceries, or working an event. Apply here to become a volunteer. 

To support Toni’s Kitchen with a financial donation, you can do so online here or mail a check to: 

Toni’s Kitchen, St. Luke’s Church – 73 S. Fullerton Avenue Montclair NJ 07042 

For all food donations, please visit the list of items needed here, and drop off the items at the church Monday through Friday 9AM – 2PM, Saturday 9:30AM – 12PM, or Sunday 3PM – 5:30PM

Every few weeks Toni’s Kitchen also hosts a town-wide food drive. Complete this survey to sign up and find out what items are in need. 

Don’t forget to stop by Toni’s Community Closet to drop off gently-used clothing and keep an eye out for the next Montclair Bounce festival! 

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