Provident Bank Awards United Community Corporation $20K Grant To Tackle Hunger in Newark


The Provident Bank Foundation, Provident Bank’s philanthropic initiative to fund and enhance the quality of life in the communities it serves, is helping United Community Corporation in its mission to combat hunger across Newark by awarding the agency a $20,000 grant award dedicated to its Food Distribution Program.

UCC’s Food Distribution Program is a year-round program that reaches more than 100,000 food insecure community members per year, providing low-income, predominately African American and Latino residents with staple groceries as the City of Newark and Essex County continue to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. The program’s services are primarily focused in Newark, with multiple outreach components which include food distribution via food pantries, community refrigerators, a new mobile food truck that visits community sites, and nutrition workshops.

With the Provident Bank Foundation grant award, UCC will be better supported to address the community need for expanded food distribution services that have seen a major uptick since the onset of the pandemic.

“The pandemic significantly exacerbated food insecurity over the past two and a half years, especially in low-income communities, and the rising cost of food due to inflation is making it harder for people who are already struggling to put food on the table,” Provident Bank Foundation Executive Director Samantha Plotino said. “UCC’s approach to tackling hunger by meeting people where they are and serving each person with dignity and respect made supporting the Food Pantry Distribution program with a $20,000 grant an easy decision for PBF’s Board of Directors. Thanks to UCC, thousands of community members don’t have to worry about where their next meal is coming from.”

Established in 2003, the Provident Bank Foundation aims to support organizations like UCC which focus on the enhancement of community enrichment, education and health, youth and families. The foundation serves this purpose by supporting nonprofit groups, institutions, schools and other 501(c)(3) organizations that provide services in communities served by Provident Bank. To date, the foundation has granted more than $28 million to nonprofit organizations and institutions working toward strengthening communities.

“The funds from the Provident Bank Foundation will support our emergency food pantry and other feeding programs,” Mainor said. “It is always a pleasure to have community stakeholders involved and participating in the fight against poverty. Each dollar received will support initiatives addressing food insecurity and increase access to nutritional meals for the community.”

Mainor noted that the funds will allow UCC to support its Mobile Feeding Program by purchasing food-related items, materials and supplies. These items and resources, Mainor said, will also aid the “UCC Cafe,” a mobile food truck that launched early this year distributing homemade, nutritious and hot meals for homeless guests at the Fulton Street and Hope Village shelters in Newark.

“It’s a good opportunity to feed more people and reach more communities to address hunger,” UCC Mobile Food Program Coordinator Cathy Ibarrondo said. Earlier this year, UCC launched a Community Refrigerator Program in public areas of high-need neighborhoods to increase access to food. UCC hosts four community refrigerators in outdoor locations, where residents may leave or take non-perishable and perishable food at no cost. 

The grant award is all the more important towards helping UCC mitigate hunger and poverty in Newark. These longstanding issues in the community were exacerbated by the pandemic. As of early 2020, UCC has worked with  dozens of food pantry sites in Newark to distribute food it receives from the Community FoodBank of New Jersey.

As the pandemic hit, many of the community members UCC serves – who were already low-income prior to the pandemic – suffered financially due to loss of employment and income. As a result, the people utilizing UCC’s food distribution program increased significantly.

To respond to this growing need, UCC reached out to more houses of worship and community organizations to serve as pantry sites. UCC distributed food in cooperation with more than 30 churches and other community partners. UCC also operates a food distribution site at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church’s Rectory building, located at 933 S. 17th St., and opened a food program site at 106 Ann St. in Newark, a centralized location that allows UCC to reach more community members.

In addition, UCC initiated mass food distribution events, where workers distributed bags of food that reached thousands of residents. Many took place at West Side Park, a 31-acre public park in Newark. In the past 12 months, more than 130,000 residents have been served through UCC’s pantry locations and food distribution events.

Leading the charge for the agency’s ongoing efforts to provide food distribution services and ensure no community member goes hungry is UCC Food Pantry Manager Maria Torres. With a determination to assist the community, Torres and her staff have hosted daily distributions, participated in mass-distribution events, worked through UCC’s partners and personally gave out food to those who couldn’t leave their homes during the pandemic. Having the financial support of the Provident Bank Foundation grant to expand and grow UCC’s critical food distribution services, Torres said, is a blessing.

“It’s going to help us out with the mission, caring for people and helping to change their life.” Torres said. 


United Community Corporation

"Moving people from dependency to self-sufficiency"