Thanks to Linda Catalano (c), Millie Guzman (l)and the owners and workers at Keystone Plastics in South Plainfield for their recent food drive. They contacted us and said they’d chosen our pantry for their drive because they saw on our website how much we do for the people of Plainfield who are hungry and find themselves in need of assistance. Not only did they give us food, but they also donated eighty brand new blankets, some pictured at left. We learned from another of our friends, Carmen Salavarrieta of Angels for Action that the displaced families in Plainfield often ask for blankets. We gave them out at the Plainfield Food Security Project. Thanks, Keystone, and welcome to the family of Star Fish Friends!

Plainfield Food Security Project

Still going strong (isn't it sad that so many people still need this help?), this project provides a grocery bag of essentials and a dozen fresh eggs twice a month to a walk-up site at Parking Lot #7 at Park Avenue and East Seventh Street in Plainfield.

We'd like to see the line get smaller, but it just grows and grows. Thanks to our financial supporters and our food donors for helping us meet this need. 

The line stretches to the sidewalk and beyond as families wait patiently for food.

We often receive other items like hats and gloves that are available through a ticket system.

Waiting for food, our guests often pitch in to help. Here these two young women are putting eggs in each bag.

Here are those blankets donated by Keystone Plastics in South Plainfield. 


Through one of our Star Fish Friends, we received a very generous donation of applesauce to help us with one of the staples of our weekly food orders. Our director, Patty Bixel, took a ride to the Somerset County Food Bank at the invitation of Lynne Draper, a SCFB volunteer (left in left photo below). Patty had a tour of their warehouse facility and came away quite impressed with their organization and types of food they have available.

Patty also came away with a carload of canned applesauce, always a nice treat to add to weekly food orders. Helping load up the car is Jessica Nichols, Operations Manager at SCFB. Thanks, Lynne and Jessica, for this donation!

New and Old(er) Donors

Students at Grant Elementary School in South Plainfield held a food drive for us in November and collected lots of food. Debbie Woodburn and Kristin Bennett (left) delivered it to our door. Thanks to the students and all for your kindness and generosity!

1000 North Avenue Apartments Plainfield

Thanks to Christina Cangialosi (right in photo) and the folks at 1000 North Ave Apts in Plainfield for their food drive,

Patty Bixel picked up the food donation at the new apartments, located near the Netherwood Train Station in Plainfield.

K-3 College Achieve Charter School

The students at the College Achieve Charter School in Plainfield also held a food collection. A very nice donation from the students and their families again this year. College Achieve has donated in past years, also. 

Girl Scouts Help Out

Many thanks to Girl Scout Troop 65528 from Dunellen for their donation of food and the time they spent helping sort it and put it away. The Troop was at the pantry for one hour for their weekly meeting.

The girls and their parents had a tour of the pantry and then the Scouts sorted their food as if they were Star Fish volunteers.   We played a quick game - “what can you feed a family for $5?” Everyone left smiling.

Thank you Scouts—great job!

Faith Lutheran Comes to our Aid

Annual partnership brings many volunteers

Each year, the folks at Faith Lutheran Church in New Providence drive down to our pantry with a truckload of food. They collect the food over the course of the year and through food drives, such as Scouting for Food by the area scout troops. We gather our many friends to help unload the truck and sort through the food before packing it away in the pantry. We are so thankful to Faith Lutheran, their supporters in New Providence, and our friendly volunteers who give of themselves on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Blessings to all for your friendship, support, and concern for the hungry!

During this Special Fundraiser for November 2023, we were blessed to receive $290 from the purchase of Give Back bags. Stop and Shop Watchung donated $1 for each bag sold - a great fundraiser!

Star Fish, Inc. is a tax exempt, 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation in Plainfield, NJ 
Your donations are tax deductible as permitted by the IRS Code.

Fresh Vegetables for Families in Need

Star Fish partnership with Rotary Club and the Giving Garden

A summer-long partnership with the Rotary Club of the Plainfields and the Giving Garden in the Wagner Farm Arboretum in Warren was a huge success. Rotary club members brought weekly donations of fresh vegetables to our Pantry. We used them for our clients and for the Plainfield Food Security Project, where they were enthusiastically received. We are grateful for the work done by Rotary to help plant, nurture and harvest the vegetables and then deliver them.  

Clients at the walkup food distribution at the Plainfield Food Security Project receive a bag of groceries and, when available, fresh produce provided by the Giving Garden in Warren. The produce is well received, as shown in these photos. Families also get a dozen fresh eggs to help with protein needs.

AEDs Donated by Star Fish

Star Fish purchased two automatic external defibrillators for use at the Covenant United Methodist Church

Concerned with the safety and health of our volunteers and the Covenant United congregation, the Board of Directors recently authorized purchase of two automatic external defibrillators. The AEDs provide a potential life-saving mechanism for anyone undergoing cardiac arrest or heart attack.

With our volunteers mostly over 60 years of age, the potential for these cardiac events is fairly high. Additionally, we have seen news reports of younger people suffering from a cardiac event that was mitigated by having a nearby AED. We hope that we never need to use these devices, but they will be there if we need them.

We installed one of the AEDs outside of the pantry near the stairwell where it is accessible to anyone using the basement level. The second device was presented to the Covenant United congregation at a Sunday service in August. The church trustees will decide where it is to be installed on the first floor.

PROJECT 600 - Food for Elementary School Children

Star Fish Food Pantry and the Plainfield YMCA collaborated to provide 
600 bags of food for elementary school children in Plainfield. 

     The idea for “Project 600” came from the Plainfield YMCA and their parent organization, the Greater Somerset County YMCA. The YMCA was awarded a generous Community Development Block Grant from Union County to fund the project. Each year, County Commissioners, Director Brandon Givens, and the CDBG staff work with nonprofits and municipalities to allocate CDBG funds from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.      

     "When presented with the ‘Project 600’ proposal from Kate Russo, District VP of Operations of the Greater Somerset County YMCA and Leo Gonzalez, the Plainfield YMCA representative, we saw this as an outreach of our regular programs,” said Ms. Bixel. “The Star Fish mission is to provide emergency food assistance to families in Plainfield who find themselves in need. We meet this obligation through food requests from our Partner Agencies, through our partnership with the YMCA on the Plainfield Food Security Project twice a month, and through other distributions in meeting specific needs. ‘Project 600’ presented a challenge that our dedicated volunteer staff was happy to take on.”      

     “Food security is essential for a healthy and productive community,” said Leo Gonzalez of the Plainfield YMCA. “When families have access to nutritious food, they are better able to learn, grown, and thrive. Through our partnership with Star Fish Food Pantry, we were able to provide 600 bags of food that will be distributed to elementary schools in the district. This food will provide much needed nourishment to families in our community who are struggling to put food on the table. I am grateful to Star Fish for partnering with Plainfield YMCA on this project and to the numerous volunteers who made this effort possible.”    

     Each “Project 600” food bag consists of cereal, soup, milk, canned tomatoes, fruit and vegetables, beans, rice, beans, snacks, juice pouches, mac and cheese, pasta, peanut butter, jelly, tuna. All the food items were provided by Star Fish Food Pantry and were purchased from ShopRite and Aldi supermarkets in South Plainfield, with some donated by Wegman’s and the Community Food Bank of NJ.      

     “Our director of food procurement, Jerry Zukowski, did a wonderful job working with the Community Food Bank of New Jersey to procure food from their inventory,” said Pat Bixel, Star Fish executive director. “He monitored available inventory, placed orders when needed items were available, drove to Hillside to pick up the food, and arranged for a delivery direct to our location.”      

     Working with Covenant United Methodist Church where Star Fish is located, volunteers stored the “Project 600” food in a basement room near the Food Pantry. “We are very appreciative of the support we receive from Covenant United Methodist Church,” said Pat Bixel. “They understand the increased need for food within our city and work cooperatively in every aspect of this project.”      

     Fifty individuals of all ages volunteered in filling 600 Wegman bags on Saturday, April 22. The high school students of Wardlaw+Hartridge School, St. Joseph High School, and members of the Scotch Plains First United Methodist Church Youth Group contributed a great deal of time and muscle.  Students helped during their spring break to begin preparing those bags before the April 22 assembly day. These same high schools and the Youth Group generously contribute food throughout the year. “Their help with this project was priceless.  We’re elated with their personal dedication in feeding families in need”, commented Pat Bixel.      

     The packaged bags were then taken to a storage location by volunteers from the Plainfield YMCA for later distribution to nine elementary schools in Plainfield.  The food bags will be given to school nurses and social workers at nine elementary schools in Plainfield with after-care programs. School personnel will identify students in need of supplemental food.      “We truly appreciate the support that we receive from the community that helps fund all of our operations at Star Fish,” said Kathleen Nitzsche, Star Fish treasurer. “It is heartwarming to receive regular monthly donations through PayPal as well as checks in the mail and food from our supporters. We could not do what we do without that community support.”  

     Anyone wishing to help us offset the food insecurity needs of families in Plainfield can donate at the our website's Contact Us or Donate page. You can also send a donation to Star Fish Inc., PO Box 2822, Plainfield, NJ 07062-0822. Donations are tax deductible as permitted by IRS regulation and law. We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit based in Plainfield, NJ with EIN 22-2145178.

FOOTNOTE: We joined with the YMCA for Project 160, preparing an additional 160 bags of food for distribution to school children before the start of summer vacation. We're like the Energizer bunny - we keep going and going and going!!

2023 and the Cost of Eggs

You’ve no doubt seen a number of articles and editorial cartoons recently clamoring over the price of eggs. We feel this price increase, too, since fresh eggs are a vital protein source that we provide to our clients.      Between our Partner Agencies and Plainfield Food Security Project clients, we distributed more than 1600 dozen eggs in 2022. We started the year at $1.29 per dozen for jumbo and have paid as much as $4 per dozen for large, an increase in cost and a decrease in size.      

The avian bird flu has spread throughout the US, requiring farmers to destroy their entire flocks of chickens when just one becomes infected. The disease is highly contagious and resulted in destruction of 40 million egg-laying hens in 2022!      Once these flocks are destroyed, it takes between 5 and 6 months for chicks to grow to egg-laying stage; some breeds take longer.  Most commercial layers are kept for 2-3 years as their egg production decreases after this time. To keep a small flock producing, owners should plan to  retire old hens and  add young hens (pullets) every 2-3 years.      

Ovulation (release of the yolk from the ovary) occurs every 24 – 26 hours regardless of fertilization. A hen ovulates a new yolk after the previous egg was laid. It takes 26 hours for an egg to fully form (white and shell added), so a hen will lay an egg later and later each day. Eventually the hen will lay too late in a day for ovulation to be signaled. She will then skip a day or more before laying another egg.      

Your donations help us purchase eggs. We now have eleven regular donors of $120 or more a year, our Egg-O-Mat donors. Each is acknowledged on our Egg-O-Mat page on the website. You can join them—just go to and select Egg-O-Mat from the list of donor choices.       

But what is an Egg-O-Mat? Long before the modern era of shopping ease, farmer Camillo Epstein and his wife brought convenience to local egg buyers roughly 70 years ago. The EggOmat, an egg vending machine enclosed in a wooden shed, was born on Mountain Boulevard, across from the field that’s now home to municipal ballfields. It eliminated the need for the Epsteins to continually staff a farm stand. At night, on weekends, and other times that food stores were closed, customers could still buy the key ingredient for their next omelet.

Here is a sample of our Egg-O-Mat tribute to our donors - thanks, Joe Bixel! We also welcome new donors Richard McInerny and Janette Cardozo, shown below in our current display of thirteen Egg-O-Mat donors - WOW!

2022 Faith Lutheran Church Food Delivery

Faith Lutheran Church in New Providence blessed us again this year with a delivery of food that was collected in New Providence and through donations at the Church itself.  We received over 200 boxes of canned goods and dry goods, and bags and bags of cereal to help fill our shelves and get us through the coming months. The donations are packed in boxes specially selected so they fit on out shelves.

The church volunteers and our own volunteers set up a ramp system and slide the boxes down onto tables in Covenant United Methodist Church basement meeting room. Our volunteers then take them to tables marked out with the food types - tuna, peanut butter and jelly, beans, vegetables, etc. After the boxes are all delivered, Star Fish helpers sort through to repackage as needed into boxes by year - 2022, 2023, 2024, even 2025 - so the food is given out before it meets expiration dates.

Some are put in milk crates, others put back in boxes. Then all are taken into the pantry to be shelved. Some items (like tomato sauce and pasta)were taken directly to the pantry and shelved there to save time and space.  

We give thanks to all of our friends at Faith Lutheran, particularly Pastor Jane and Cheryl Bock who help lead this community food drive every year and promote it through the congregation and community.  Click on any photos below to enjoy the various scenes of activity, fun and fellowship.


Food for Thought's Thanksgiving Gifts

For a number of years, we have received a very welcome gift of food and ShopRite gift cards from Food for Thought, Inc., a Plainfield-based non-profit of the Encarnación family. They work hard to gather food for Thanksgiving, accepting donations from a number of sources. We treasure our relationship with them and share the following information on the sources of their annual gift.

Greetings Patty,

hope this email finds you well and that your Thanksgiving weekend was extra special for you and your family. Thank you again for all that you do for the Starfish food pantry.   

You and the volunteers do an amazing job of serving the community. The food and gift cards donated by Food For Thought of NJ are made up of the heartfelt contributions of our friends, families, neighbors, and organizations who look to help make a small difference in the lives of struggling families for Thanksgiving.

To name a few of those who donated are... The Hudson Way Immersion School (Stirling, NJ) coordinated its annual collection, and members of Neighbors of Sleepy Hollow also gave generously along with individuals from near and far.  While most of our donations come from NJ locals, we have received donations from places like  Texas, Puerto Rico, Virginia, Ohio, and New York. 

Through the years Olivia's (and now Lucas') vision and simple goal remain the same... helping struggling families for Thanksgiving by giving a sense of hope from caring people.  Imagine what our world could be if more people did the same.   Each year my family and I are emotionally overwhelmed by the outpouring of goodness.  We certainly reflect on how thankful we are to have such great people in our circle.  This, of course, includes you. Thank you.

Warm regards,

Joe, Patricia, Olivia & Lucas Encarnación


Pictured at left are members of the Encarnación family (Patricia, Lucas, Olivia and Joe) with our own volunteer Jerry (far left) happily unloading their annual food donation this past Thanksgiving time. The family is a regular, annual contributor to Star Fish, bringing traditional Thanksgiving food items and ShopRite gift cards donated by numerous sources as described above. We are  truly thankful for the family's dedicated and loyal support.

Schools and Postal Workers and Other Donations

We enjoy special relationships with area schools and organizations that support us with their food drives, some annual like the Postal Workers Union and the Ramos family, who collect in memory of their father, Mike. Others contribute throughout the year at various times, such as regular donations by the North Plainfield Boy Scouts, Mike and Mike in Plainfield, and many others. Pictures below are representative of the groups and individuals, including St. Joseph High School in Metuchen, Mt. St. Mary Academy in Watchung, and Wardlaw Hartridge in Edison, along with the group who helped receive and sort the Postal Worker's food collection, and a number of others. Thanks to all for your wonderful spirit of generosity!

Covid-19 and How it Affected our Holiday Dinners 

All of us have been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic in multiple ways. At Star Fish, we closed our pantry for over a year to avoid personal contacts between volunteers and among the people we serve. That did not stop us from continuing to help those in need of food.

We worked with the Plainfield Food Security Project as a founding member, along with the Plainfield YMCA, the Rotary Club of the Plainfields, and DuCret School of Art. Many individuals and community groups pitched in to donate food, to contribute to our fundraising, and to work at food distribution points for over a year. Covid-19 restrictions exacerbated hunger and we all adapted to those restrictions and met the challenge head on.

One of the changes caused by Covid-19 affected our Holiday Dinner Program. Through this project, Star Fish would package grocery bags for 160 to 170 families each Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Typical holiday food items included such items mashed potatoes, yams, cranberry, mac and cheese, vegetables, stuffing, gravy, desserts and frozen turkeys or chickens.  

Beginning in spring of 2020 and due to Covid-19 restrictions, we could not gather and package all of that food - there was too much face-to-face work involved. We pivoted to giving out ShopRite gift cards for each holiday, enabling clients to purchase the food items that they needed or desired for their individual dinners. This change was well-received, in part due to the flexibility it gives the families to buy what they need to supplement what they receive from other sources. We continue it today. 

For 2022, we purchased and distributed approximately 1200 gift cards worth almost $45,000.00 to over 480 families. Small families received $75, average families $100, and larger families $125 for each holiday. We benefitted from several large grants that covered this expense this year, one from the City of Plainfield and another from the Plainfield Foundation. 

We would like to continue using gift cards in 2023, but that will depend on the generosity of our donors and any grants that we can obtain to help fund the project. Donate at our Contact Us or Donate page.

Community Food Bank of NJ Pickup

At times during the year we run low on certain popular items. Jerry Zukowski, our purchasing director, uses CFBNJ software to check on the inventory at their Hillside location and places orders for pickup or delivery (if a larger order). The photos below show our pickup and delivery into our Pantry from CFBNJ this past year. We bought shelf-stable milk, canned fruit and vegetables, and other items. Several volunteers drove to Hillside, packed items in cars, and brought them back to our location. We set up our basement stairwell ramp, slid the boxes down to the basement, where they were taken into the Pantry for shelving. After years of practice, it's a smooth operation. (But that ramp is getting heavier as we get older LOL!)

Summer Bounty from Rotary Club of the Plainfields

Our local Rotary club works with the Wagner Farm Arboretum Giving Garden in Warren to grow and harvest fresh vegetables for food pantries and soup kitchens in our area. Often, the weekly harvest includes a bounty that the Giving Garden picks at the Rutgers Snyder Farm in Pittstown. All of this produce at Snyder Farm is free to local non-profits, and it supplements what is grown at the Giving Garden.

Pictured below is Rotary club member Wanda who helped pick fresh vegetables at the Snyder Farm and then brought them down to the Pantry.

Unity Achievement Award

Star Fish Food Pantry and the Covenant United Methodist Church in Plainfield were recognized by the Union County Human Relations Commission at the 19th Annual Achievement Awards Thursday, June 9, at Kean University’s STEM building. The award presentations were delayed from 2021 by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The awards are presented annually to recognize and honor individuals and organizations that have contributed in an extraordinary manner to fostering human rights and relations, and promoting and advancing the understanding, acceptance and appreciation of cultural diversity.

Star Fish and Covenant United Methodist Church received the award for creating and growing an interfaith union of neighbors helping neighbors. Founded in 1971, Star Fish has operated out of Covenant United Methodist Church continuously helping to provide emergency food to people in Plainfield. Patty Bixel, executive director, accepted on behalf of Star Fish, and Miguel Edgehill, trustee, accepted on behalf of Covenant Church. 

“We are very grateful for the space and support that Covenant United Methodist Church provides us,” said Star Fish Executive Director Patty Bixel. “We fill a very real need for food in the community – the need exists at any time. During Covid-19 we closed the pantry for over a year; Star Fish volunteers continued to help people through the Plainfield Food Security Project. Working with the YMCA, DuCret School of Art, and the Rotary Club of the Plainfields, we helped box and distribute 400 boxes of food every Saturday through August 2021.  Once our pantry opened, we continued to support the Project by packing seventy food bags twice a month for their scheduled distribution. With the financial support of our friends, we can distribute 120 dozen eggs along with those food bags.”

Star Fish volunteers also package snack bags for an after-school program, support families in need with bags of groceries, help St. Mary’s Soup Kitchen with take-home bags of food for their guests at the Sunday dinner program.  During Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter seasons Star Fish provided a total of over $40,000 worth of supermarket gift cards to families designated by the 8 agencies partnered with Star Fish. This again was possible for the past two years due to the generosity of people and organizations in the community. “We do all we can to fill the need for food, a need that is always present,” said Bixel. “We enjoy our volunteer service and look forward to continuing for years to come.”

2022 Spirit Award Received

Greater Somerset County Presents Award 

We were pleased to receive notice this past summer of an award to recognize our efforts as partner with the Greater Somerset County YMCA through their Plainfield YMCA unit, the Rotary Club of the Plainfields, and DuCret School of Art on the Plainfield Food Security Project. This special project began with the outbreak of Covid-19 in 2020 and continues in 2022.

Dear Pat,

It is my pleasure to inform you that Starfish Food Pantry has been selected to receive the 2022 Greater Somerset County YMCA Spirit Award for Outstanding Community Partner in recognition of their consistent support of the Y’s Food Distribution Program.

Volunteers are the heart of the Y. We are so pleased to recognize outstanding volunteer service and celebrate the selfless spirit in which it is offered. On behalf of everyone at Greater Somerset County YMCA, I would like to express our sincere gratitude for your time and dedication. You help to fulfill the Y’s mission of strengthening the community through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility.

I hope you will join us on Wednesday, March 30, 2022 via ZOOM for our virtual Volunteer Spirit Awards and Annual Campaign Celebration. The event will be from 6:00 – 7:00 p.m. At your earliest convenience, please contact Sylvia Velez at to confirm your attendance.

Once again, congratulations and thank you!


David M. Carcieri

President & CEO


140 Mount Airy Road, Basking Ridge NJ 07920

908 630 3535 x110 | 

Patty Bixel, our executive director (right) accepts the Spirit Award for our participation and continuing support of the Plainfield Food Security Project from two representatives of the Greater Somerset County YMCA.

2021 Thanksgiving Blessings

We spent a wonderful day on Saturday, November 20, with over twenty volunteers receiving donated food from St. Joseph's High School in Metuchen, from Food for Thought in Scotch Plains, and from Faith Lutheran Church in New Providence. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, our normal food collection at this time of the year is reduced in scale. We have enjoyed generous financial contributions through our PayPal account in lieu of food items, however. This enables us to give out the ShopRite gift cards to families in Plainfield again for Thanksgiving. Thanks to the volunteers who came out to help, and especially to everyone who donated food through St. Joe's, Food for Thought, and Faith Lutheran. We are blessed to have you all as friends.


In Memoriam

Our dear friend and dedicated volunteer, Joe Stowasky, died on Sunday, May 8, 2022 after a brief illness. 

Joe was a pharmacist who graduated from Rutgers in 1973 and owned his own pharmacy in Clark for 25 years. After selling the pharmacy to Rite Aid, he was employed at a long term care pharmacy for 19 years before retiring 2016.

Joe was an active parishioner at St. Helen's Church in Westfield since 1989. He was well known and liked for his generous spirit and friendly manner. He was a member of St. Helen's Funeral Ministry and its Choir.

Joe began volunteering at Star Fish in November 2017 and was our purchasing chair. In that capacity, he placed orders for needed supplies from the Community Food Bank of NJ, then helped to pick up those orders and bring them to the Food Pantry, where he also helped shelving the purchased items.

Joe commented about Star Fish when asked a few years ago "I'd recommend Star Fish to anyone who is looking for an opportunity to donate to a worthy cause, whether it is food items we always need or financial assistance that helps when we purchase food."

Joe was born in Newark to Joseph and Madeline (Greco) Stowasky. He is survived by his beloved wife of 48 years, Suzanne (Aumann) Stowasky, his devoted children Alison Korner and her husband Brian, Meredith Pickens and her husband Brandt, and Elizabeth Stowasky. He is also survived by this cherished grandchildren, Nathan and Patrick Korner, Emma and Lucy Pickens. and by his sister Joan Tobia.

Go to our Contact Us or Donate page to make a donation in Joe's memory.

 Partnering with Plainfield High School's Chef Andre 

New Executive Director

A new era of leadership began this year as Patricia Bixel was appointed executive director at Star Fish, Inc., the parent organization for the Star Fish Food Pantry in Plainfield. She succeeds Marie Pase who has served in that position for the past 10 years. “To be asked to direct the Starfish Food Pantry is flattering, humbling and exciting,” said Ms. Bixel.   “I hope I can serve my neighbors as well as Marie Pase has done. She is truly a team player who earns respect from all of us. With the support of a truly dedicated team of volunteers and our “Friends of Star Fish” supporters, I believe we can all continue to accomplish many good things.” Pat Bixel is a retired educator and administrator, having last served at Mount St. Mary Academy in Watchung as director of the Guidance Department for 25 years. “While at Mount St. Mary’s, I advised a group of students who prepared sandwiches and snacks for the Salvation Army in Plainfield, and conducted a Cereal Bowl campaign for Star Fish every year.  The students collected nearly 2000 boxes of cereal, with the room collecting the most each year earning the right to display the Cereal Bowl Trophy. “On the fifth Sunday of the month, several of my students prepared deserts for the neighbors of St. Mary’s parish in Plainfield. We also worked with other volunteers to serve Sunday dinners to one hundred or more people. I was very proud of my students as they became acutely aware of the needs of others and how we can all help those in need. For some this was an awakening. They eagerly looked forward to the next opportunity to serve.” The Board of Directors at Star Fish expressed their appreciation to past executive director Marie Pase by asking her to continue to serve as an advisor to the board. “Marie is one of those special individuals who takes on a volunteer assignment with all of the energy and enthusiasm needed to be an effective leader,” said Michael Townley, secretary at Star Fish, Inc. “She had only been a volunteer for a few years when she became director, but handled the job as if she had been there forever. Marie was a great ambassador for Star Fish, establishing close relationships with the agencies in Plainfield who were our partners in service.” Housed in the Covenant United Methodist Church, Star Fish Food Pantry volunteers pack food two days a week and deliver it to local social service agencies, such as Plainfield Action Services, HomeFirst, and others. Basic food items are bagged in brown grocery bags that are inserted into compostable plastic shopping bags for added strength and for ease of carrying. “We encourage anyone in need of emergency food to contact Plainfield Action Services at 908-753-3519,” said Pat Bixel. “The staff at PAS prepares a list of families in need which we take over the telephone. Our workers then package up food orders and deliver them to PAS, where the clients go to pick up their food.” Pat is pictured at right below, with former director Marie on the left.

Grateful for our generous donors who continue to bring us food and contribute financially, we are reaching out to other groups to help share our food.

At the end of December, we prepared 25 bags of food for the free food distribution at Plainfield High School. Our director, Pat Bixel (center), dropped them off in the morning on her way to work at the Pantry. She reported the school representatives were extremely grateful for our donation.

Machio Food Service is contracted by the Plainfield district to provide food services. The chef at the high school, Andre Jones, set up a first food distribution event in October with 50 boxes of food available. After that success, he began receiving hundreds of boxes and giving them away over the past months. 

We are happy to be able to support his initiative and help feed the hungry.

Corona Virus Update

In order to address restrictions imposed during the Covid-19 outbreak, we suspended our normal operations back in March. We then worked with the Plainfield Food Security Project, a coalition of non-profits helping feed the hungry. As of August, we've re-opened for our normal food services to people in need.

Buying Grape Jelly and Canned Peaches

Dealing with shortages that normally occur throughout the year is part of any food pantry's normal operating procedures. Read below how we address the need for fresh eggs - we have Egg-O-Mat sponsors whose donations help us make sure we have fresh eggs for every order that goes out.

Some of the other items that are sometimes in short supply are jelly and fruit. When we run low, we may be lucky enough to have a local church or other group running a food drive, where we can ask for donations of the items we need. At other times, it's a matter of seeing if the Central Food Bank of NJ has the items we need at a reasonable cost. And then our last resort is to purchase what we need at local markets.

Our friends at ShopRite have been very good to us, allowing us to buy items that are on sale at limited quantities but at a number that exceeds the limit. We just purchased 96 cans of peaches at the sale price of $1.19, as one example

We also check Aldi's for needed items, using them as a source for our jelly purchases. The price at Aldi's is slightly better than the price at the CFBNJ, a savings that our bank account appreciates!!

So even if you cannot donate food items themselves, think about becoming a regular donor for the purchase of these types of food items. Just go to our Contact Us or Donate page and click on the Donate button - it's that easy!

Christmas Dinner Packing Event a Success

Volunteers at the Star Fish Food Pantry packaged Christmas dinners for 160 families on Thursday, December 21 at 9:00 a.m. at the Covenant United Methodist Church in Plainfield. Our grateful Partner Agencies picked up the meals, with chickens or turkeys (depending on size of family), vegetables, potato mix, stuffing, mac n cheese, rolls, margarine, gravy, cranberry sauce, fruit - enough for a complete holiday dinner. 

This is one of the three major holiday meals that we present - Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. Since Easter is right around the corner, and if you'd like to help, click here to send us an email for more information and details. Make a stop at your favorite grocery and pick up some of the items on our "Shopping List" page. We always need everything, even with recent huge donation from Faith Lutheran Church in New Providence and others. Or you can go to our "Donate" page and make a secure donation through PayPal. It's that easy to help a family in need.

Warren Township's Woodland School 

Fourth Grade Collects Food for Star Fish Food Pantry

Valentine's Day isn't just for lovers, you know? The fourth grade at Woodland School decided to use Valentine's Day as a service project to help meet the school's goal of addressing hunger in the area. Mrs. Jamie Perry and the other fourth grade teachers led their students in collecting tuna, pasta (including some Nice! Spaghetti), and vegetables, with each of the three classrooms assigned one item. This helped assure that a nice balance would be achieved with not too much of one item and only a little of another.

The collection was a great success, but now the question became "What to do with this food?" Fortunately, Mrs. Perry had learned of Star Fish Food Pantry through her church, Our Lady of Lourdes, and their support for our pantry. Mrs. Perry contacted us and two of our volunteers gladly drove up to Woodland School to meet her and Principal Jeff Heaney and to collect the food.

They explained about how we operate; who gets our food and how; our sources of food, such as annual Thanksgiving deliveries by our generous friends at St. Andrews and Faith Lutheran in New Providence and others listed in a later story on this page; drop-offs by individuals; regular collections by local churches (like hers); and purchases from the Central Jersey Food Bank in Hillside.

The volunteers thanked Mrs. Perry and asked her to please express that thanks to the other teachers and especially the students who brought in the food. We are so grateful!


Star Fish has been blessed to know and benefit from many individuals and groups who find it in their hearts to help us meet our mission. Some of these people work every week, volunteering their time and talent to help assure that people in need have food to eat. Others work on projects that benefit the Food Pantry with supplies and re-supplies, some of them year in and year out. We express our appreciation for all of them, and offer this news about the benefits that we received this past Thanksgiving. 

Our friends at Faith Lutheran Church and at St. Andrew's Church, both in New Providence, bring us food and supplies at Thanksgiving time that helps us help others into the following Spring. This year was no exception, providing us with hundreds of boxes of food and turkeys for our Thanksgiving Meals Project. They were joined by College Achieve Charter School in Plainfield/North Plainfield, Food for Thought in Scotch Plains, Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church in Plainfield, and by many others whose donations help us with our mission.

Faith Lutheran's outreach to others is not limited to donations for Star Fish. Here is an excerpt from their Annual Report:

On Saturday November 19th 528 boxes of food – worth an estimated $37,000 – was collected by local Scout Troops and sorted/packed at Faith Lutheran Church.  Of these, 150 boxes of food were handed out over the weekend by Community Service Association of New Providence to 38 local families in need.  On Saturday November 26th, the remainder of the food was delivered to the Star Fish Food Pantry, an interfaith pantry in Plainfield.  We received an overwhelmingly generous amount of food donated by the family of faith during our month-long collection in the narthex.  In addition, we received food collected by Lantern Hill and Weichert Realtors in Summit.  

VOLUNTEERS: This year, over 160 volunteers sorted and packed thousands of dollars worth of food in just about four hours.  Of these volunteers, 96 came from the Family of Faith; the others were from various community groups including the CSA.  Boy Scout Troop 68 from Berkeley Heights under the leadership of Jim Kwan joined our Pack & Sort day and assisted with unloading cars and moving the bags of food down the long hallway to FHN for sorting.  

TRANSPORTATION VOLUNTEERS: This year we had over 27 volunteers who helped to transport over 388 boxes of food to the Star Fish Food Pantry.  We used one truck driven by Chris Melhuish.  This year our new neighbors Lantern Hill donated the cost of the truck rental for our Transport Day.  Many volunteers from the pantry and the rollers aided our delivery efforts. We confirmed our donation will stock their shelves until next summer.

College Achieve Charter School is a new school located at the St. Bernard Parish in Plainfield. Our new friends undertook a project to assist Star Fish Food Pantry with food donations from their school classrooms. Boxes were decorated and placed in the classrooms for students to fill, and fill they did! We were blessed to have Mary Greely of College Achieve deliver the food and help bring it down to the Pantry. As show in the photos, this was both a lesson in giving and a fun project for the students. We thank them sincerely for their kindness and generosity.

Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church runs their own feeding program every week, but they still found it in their hearts to collect food for our pantry (photo left).

Food for Thought in Scotch Plains generously donated some of the food that they collected in the period leading up to Thanksgiving. They boxed the food and labeled it for family size, making our job so much easier.

Union Catholic High School and Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Scotch Plains partnered again this year to collect food for our Pantry. Amazingly, when we went to pick up the donated food, it was all packed in giant totes that were enclosed in plastic bags for protection against the weather. Between 2,000 and 2,500 pounds of food were donated this year, a remarkable amount and so greatly appreciated! 

St. Andrews Church andTURKEYS, TURKEYS, TURKEYS!! What's Thanksgiving without turkey? Well, we didn't have to worry about that, thanks to St. Andrew's Church in New Providence (donated 40 turkeys), Division of Developmental Disabilities in Plainfield (donated four turkeys and food and money for our purchases as needed), and Union Catholic High School and Immaculate Heart of Mary Church (donated 31 turkeys in addition to the other totes of food). This and other food was diligently packaged for over 150 families to help them enjoy a bountiful Thanksgiving dinner.

Thank you to all of our supporters and donors, our volunteer workers, including Girl Scouts and their leader from South Plainfield, and all those who helped with our Thanksgiving Meal Project and our post-Thanksgiving donation sorting and packing project. You are, each one of you, a miracle!

St. John the Baptist Church

We thank the Youth and Outreach Group for the Scotch Plains church for their donation of both food and gifts for the 2015 Christmas Project here at the Food Pantry. This was the first donation by the church and was well-received and put to good use immediately. We always appreciate any donation, of course, but the combination of food items and gifts was just terrific!

Union Catholic Students Donate thanksgiving food

Imagine our surprise when we drove up to Immaculate Conception Church in Scotch Plains and found over 800 pounds of food waiting for pickup in 2015?!

We knew there would be "some" food there, but the amount of foodand the enthusiasm of the students were amazing.

Everything we need in the pantry was contained in large plastic storage tubs, protected in plastic bags (see photo). And thanks to the strong young students, we only supervised the loading of two full-size SUVs and one full-size pickup truck.

Our most profound thanks to all who contributed - truly a blessing!

Status Update

  • We continue to serve our clients through the generosity of individuals, groups, area churches and their congregations, and other donors. Our food supplies are low, causing us to use our monetary donations to purchase food to supplement that which is dropped off at the Pantry. If you would like to donate food, see our Shopping List page for the items we need and our Contact Us page to make arrangements to get the food to us at your convenience (we pick up, too!).
  • We recently received two new freezers to replace old, non-working "space-takers" that were of no value. These new freezers were a gift from Wilson Memorial Church in Watchung, to whom we are extremely grateful. The freezers are particularly valuable for two reasons: (1)  one of our volunteers brings donated bread each week which is placed in a freezer; and (2) our choice of meats through the Community Food Bank of NJ is such that we need more freezer capacity to properly store the meat when we receive it. A third freezer recently "died" and, along with it, we lost frozen chicken. We are hoping to replace that one soon.
  • Speaking of the Community Food Bank, our Treasurer reports that, after one year of participating in the Food Bank, we purchased 21,638 pounds of food at a cost of $10,438, or just over $.50/pound. This a great savings for our budget while still providing our clients with quality food, including better cuts and quality of meat.
  • Our holiday meal preparation is beginning. One of our "needs" is for people who can help bake cakes. We give every family a single-layer cake as their dessert with their holiday meal items. We will supply the disposable cake pans and arrange for pickup of the cakes. Anyone wishing to volunteer (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and then Easter) should use our Contact Us page.


 2014 shows a 37.2% increase in families served over 2013. The total number of people has also grown by 53.9%.  The biggest increase has been in the number of children served. We joined with the Community Food Bank of New Jersey, located in Hillside, in mid-September, 2014. The table below compares the September through December period in 2014 with CFBNJ to the same period in 2013 without their help. The total number of people served in this period is up by 67.4% with the greatest driver being children with a growth of 90%.



Our relationship with CFBNJ in Hillside has brought us some considerable savings since September 2014, the greatest of which being with our purchase of meat.  At Hillside, we qualify to purchase 400 lbs. of meat a month for a cost of $72.00, or 18 cents per pound.  In the past, our purchase of meat would average $490.00 for 200 pounds, or $2.45 per pound.  We are now distributing a greater variety and higher quantity of meats to our clients at a considerably lesser cost.  Starting in 2015, we hope to see some of these types of savings reflected in our Holiday Meal Distribution as well.

  • Over the last 4 months of 2014, we averaged 125 families served as compared to 88 families a month in the last 4 months of 2013.
  • Likewise, since joining with CFBNJ, the number of people served per month averages 417 compared with 250 servedduring the same period of 2013.


For the second year in a row, the students at the Cornerstone Day School in Mountainside collected and delivered food just in time for 2014Thanksgiving! Mac 'n' cheese, canned vegetables and soups, pasta...all the foods that we use every week were in the many bags and boxes that the Cornerstone folks delivered. We are so grateful, not only for the donation of food, but for the social concern expressed by the students' and the staff's generosity. Thank you!!



 What a great day! On December 20, 2013, approximately 25 people helped pack dinner bags for 160 families. We also gave out donated toys and other gifts for the children of these families.      Dinners of ham, yams, corn, green beans, mac and cheese, pineapple, tea and cake were packaged and ready to go by 11:00 a.m.      "Thank you" to all of the volunteers, both those who've been there for years and the new people who came out for the first time. We appreciate all of you for your help and generosity.


We are giving thanks to the parishioners of St. Andrew's Church for their donation of 24 turkeys for our Thanksgiving Dinner program. We will distribute the turkeys to some of the 170 families we will help with full, Thanksgiving meals this year.  "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink..."

Make a free website with Yola