As well as providing food to the needy, Toni’s Kitchen also provides the following services:
Nutrition For Our Guests
At Toni’s Kitchen, we recognize that guests have limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables, adequate amounts of protein, and sufficient quantities of whole grains and dairy. We also recognize that guests often rely on fast foods which may contain excessive amounts of fat, salt, and sugar.
Our goal at Toni’s Kitchen is to provide guests with consistently healthy, nutritious, and tasty meals. Meals are planned and prepared using the following guidelines:
- Collaborative meal planning process
- My Plate and USDA nutrition guidelines
- Six ounces of protein per serving
- Limited use of “mixed dishes,” as mixed dishes usually result in a lesser amount of protein
- Limited fat intake
- Reduced sodium intake
- Reduced amount of refined sugar
Nutrition Targets for Each Meal:
- Sodium: 1300mg
- Calories: 1500-1800
- Protein: 30%
- Vegetables: 30%
- Grains: 20%
- Fruits: 20%
Community Outreach for Families
Poverty in families can be especially devastating. Toni’s Kitchen connects with low-income families in the community through tutoring programs, mentoring and counseling groups, and summer camps. We have developed an extensive backpack program to provide healthy food at these gatherings to help improve family nutrition while preserving respect and dignity.
In 2015, Toni’s Kitchen provided 1,912 backpacks and pantry bags are part of our outreach programs, which equals more than 22,000 meals for needy families.
For more info about the backpack program, click here: http://tk.slechurch.org/backpack-outreach-program/
Health and Wellness
Toni’s Kitchen provides a growing number of health and wellness services. We have increasingly focused on self-management of health and nutrition.
Our “Whole Health” preventive program (through the Mental Health Association of Essex County) keeps senior citizens from slipping into homelessness. MHAEC makes counselors available to guests of Toni’s Kitchen every Thursday during the mid-day meal.
Toni’s Kitchen also provides free, regular screening for blood pressure and glucose for our guests.
Access to regular healthcare supports independent living and relieves pressure on local emergency rooms. We are overwhelmed by our blessings!
Skills Training Program
Thanks to the Montclair Foundation and The Schumann Fund for New Jersey, Toni’s Kitchen was able to open an improved Skills Training Program using up-to-date computer equipment! Our computer room makes four desktop computers available, as well as a fax machine, printer, and telephone. The room is open to guests after lunch on Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 12:30 – 1:30 p.m.
Toni’s Kitchen is the grateful recipient of donated garden space from HomeCorp. Our gardening program is run by a Master Gardener, whose efforts result in great bounty for our guests each summer and fall. We are always in need of additional gardening volunteers.
Guest Mentoring Program
Our Skills Training Program opens the doors to a different type of relationship being formed with out guests. We have found that as guests use the program to gain new skills or apply for jobs, our Program Coordinator has formed a close mentoring relationship with many of these individuals. The result is that these guests, often those most ready to re-enter the work force, find a touchstone of sorts here. They return regularly to report progress, check in, ask advice, seek out encouragement and, most delightfully, celebrate transitions.
Personal Care and Warm Accessories
This is a small program with a big benefit. Toni’s Kitchen actively solicits donations of toiletries, hats, gloves, warm coats, socks and other items for daily living. Our community is most generous and we are able to provide our guests with these items regularly at the end of meals. While these are items we sometimes take for granted, they make a huge difference. For some, it is matter of keeping feet warm and dry in the winter. For others, it is having the personal care items needed to keep a job. For some of our seniors, these items shave precious dollars off their monthly costs.
Some guests we know quite well. Others we never get to know. Guests know that they can always come to us when they are in crisis or need assistance. It is this one-on-one connection that can shift the trajectory of lives. Most needs that surface as a result of sharing a meal together are easily handled: a change of clothes; a call to a landlord; help filling out government forms; temporary storage for a few bags for someone without housing; bus fare to a doctor’s appointment; directions; a pair of boots that don’t leak; a bucket of warm water with Epsom salts to calm inflamed feet; a bag of groceries.
Some are of a different order: preventing a pending eviction; a ride to the emergency room; calls to service providers who are not being responsive; visits to the hospital and conversations with social workers to ensure safe discharge conditions for those without insurance or family.
We are not social workers at Toni’s Kitchen and we turn always to our community partners and social services organizations. However, there are times when urgent individual needs do not fit neatly within the programs and schedules and requirements of support programs available in the community. It is only in these circumstances that we sometimes quietly intervene with an extra measure of support.
Toni’s Kitchen has the organizational flexibility and agility to be able, sometimes, to keep a guest from becoming seriously at risk. We are deeply grateful that we are able to do this.
Toni’s Living Room
Toni’s Kitchen opens to guests from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. on most public holidays. During those times, the Toni’s Kitchen dining room becomes Toni’s Living Room, a community sanctuary – a place to relax and socialize. Toni’s Living Room is a social afternoon – we play cards, a competitive game of Scrabble or watch movies. The Skills Training Program is open for those who want to work on resumes or job searches.
Volunteer musicians are often found at Toni’s Kitchen. The TNT Ramblers, from Temple Ner Tamid in Bloomfield, perform every month and recently released a four-CD collection of local artists in support of Toni’s Kitchen. Kirk Woodard regularly plays piano for us; a chorale group from the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Montclair has led sing-alongs; and St. Luke’s own renowned operatic soloist, Alson Bolshoi, has visited as well.
On many Saturdays each month, guests stay after lunch to work on their own art projects – photography, painting, collages. We have amazing talent in our midst!