Free summer meals for NJ youth through age 18 – find your location

Free summer meals are available to youth ages 18 and younger across New Jersey. Many meal sites also offer fun activities so kids and teens can enjoy healthy meals, be active and enjoy spending time with friends. No need to apply, show I.D. or proof of income.

To locate free meal sites:

For more information, visit Please share this information with everyone who can help spread the news!

Pases grátis a parques nacionales para estudiantes del 4º grado | Free passes for 4th graders to government parks

Los pases se proveen a los estudiantes del 4º grado y sus familias. Son validos por un año y son grátis de costo. Visite para conseguir su pase hoy! Esta oportunidad es proporcionada por el gobierno de los Estados Unidos.

Passes are available for 4th Grade students and their families. They are valid for one year and are completely free. Visit to get your free pass today! This opportunity is brought to you by the U. S. Government.

Free or Discounted Rides to Polls on Election Day (Nov. 6th) by Uber & Lyft

By Olivia Rizzo of NJ Advance Media for

For some people half the battle of voting is getting to the polls, but this year voters can get some relief from a slightly unexpected source: Uber and Lyft.

Both ride share companies are offering free or discounted rides to voters on Nov. 6, and both companies are partnering with voting organizations that encourage people to register and then go out to vote.

free ride to voteAccording to Pew Research, 3 percent of registered voters who did not vote in 2016 cited “transportation problems” as the main reason they didn’t vote. Additionally, 14 percent of people cited that they were “too busy or conflicting schedule,” and “inconvenient hours or polling places,” which are issues that tend to affect low income communities.

This is why Lyft in particular said it wants to offer free rides to underserved communities.

Uber said in a press release it is partnering with When We All Vote to get people registered and with #VoteTogether and Democracy Works to offer free rides to polling places.

Uber is also sharing voter registration resources with users in the app.

In order to get a free ride to the polls on Elections Day, users will need to open the app, search for their polling place using the “get to the polls” button, and order a ride.

It appears that users will not be able to use the free ride for another location as the polling place search bar is separate from the standard location search bar.

Lyft announced its Election Day initiatives back in August, partnering with, Turbo Vote, Nonprofit Vote, and other organizations which will distribute promo codes for 50 percent off rides to polling places. Lyft has also partnered with Vote Latino, the National Federation of the Blind, and Urban League affiliates to provide free rides to underserved communities.

Like Uber, Lyft is also encouraging its users to register to vote through the app, and partnered with When We All Vote and National Voter Registration Day to amplify their get out the vote efforts.

More information about how to get a free or discounted ride to your polling location can be found on Uber and Lyft’s websites.

In New Jersey, the deadline to register to vote was Oct. 16.

Uber’s website is
Lyfts’ website is

Link to article

Two Ruiz-Madden bills that provide help and identity to the homeless are now law in New Jersey

homeless not hopeless
09 January 2017

TRENTON – Two pieces of legislation sponsored by Senator M. Teresa Ruiz and Senator Fred H. Madden focusing on helping the homeless in New Jersey received was signed into law today.

“It must be a top priority of government to protect the health, safety and welfare of our residents,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “Providing basic government documents to those without a permanent residence free of charge is the right thing to do, since these documents are vital to accessing any number of services and to obtaining housing and employment.”

“This is a small way we can help those who have fallen on hard times and it’s the right thing to do,” said Senator Madden (D-Gloucester/Camden). “Those who are homeless may not have the ability to pay for an identification card or a copy of a birth certificate, which could potentially prevent them from getting the critical services they need.”

The first bill signed into law, S-2350, allows a homeless person to obtain, duplicate, or renew a non-driver identification card without paying fees to the Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC). In order for the fee to be waived, the law requires a homeless person to submit proof of temporary residence through a social worker or the coordinator of an emergency shelter for the homeless where the person is temporarily residing.

Currently, residents who are 14 years of age and older may apply to the MVC for a non-driver identification card, for a fee of $24. The card is issued solely for the purpose of providing identification and is not a license to drive.

The second law, S-2351 will permit homeless people to obtain free certified copies of their birth certificates by submitting a request for the certificate to the State Registrar of Vital Statistics through a social worker or through the coordinator of the emergency shelter for the homeless where the person is temporarily residing.

The law would also amend current law to waive any fee associated with attaining a certified copy of a birth certificate.

Both pieces of legislation cleared the Senate and the Assembly unanimously.

S-2350 takes effect in August and S-2351 takes effect immediately.

Prison to Whole Foods Pipeline: artisanal foods crafted by inmates

Prison work in progress
Flickr: kathrynsdays / Via Kathryndays Flickr
Fortune publishes the oddest stuff. This intriguing article covers the burgeoning artisanal food prison business, thriving because its labor force is prison inmates that earn – get this – 60¢ an hour. Although, Colorado Corrections Institute director Steve Smith points out, a whole $3-400 a month can be earned with incentives (emphasis mine). Naturally, the prison industry itself profits handsomely from these relationships as middleman and overseer, making it pretty clear what has been driving Big Money’s strategy to lock up 1% of the United States population. The US is returning to a slave labor model … and calling it “help” for prison inmates. UK politics professor Genevieve LeBaron says,

The practice has long been controversial. Prisoners earn meager wages and have no recourse if they’re mistreated, LeBaron argues. Plus, they can take jobs from law-abiding citizens. “It’s hugely concerning in the face of economic instability and unemployment.”

Artisanal Foods

Buzzfeed writes: 8 Artisanal Foods You Didn’t Know Were Made By Prisoners: “Inmates help make a surprising amount of the feel-good food products you eat, from cage-free eggs to goat cheese sold at Whole Foods.” Artisanal foods are the high-priced items sold in elitist markets like Whole Foods, and their high price tags are supposed to reflect intensive care and handling by skilled workers. Here’s a definition of artisanal I like:

In Ye Goode Olde Days, most things people owned and consumed were made by hand. Artisans were skilled craftspeople who created products that required extensive training and specialization to produce. In Medieval Europe, artisans formed guilds to set standards for their crafts and prevent competition. But when production moved to factories, machines and factory workers replaced skilled craftspeople. The mechanization of food processing came later, but today, most foods sold in the United States are processed in factories. Obesity and diabetes followed.

Dissent Magazine shares public reactions to the Forbes exposé.

It’s not clear what shocked people most about the report in Fortune that Whole Foods Market sells goat cheese and tilapia prepared with prison labor—the horrendous exploitation of prisoners for a base rate less than one-tenth of Whole Foods’ starting wage, or the fact that even after paying prisoner-workers sixty cents an hour, that tiny wheel of goat cheese still costs upward of seven dollars. Whichever reason it was, for many the story disturbed the experience that Whole Foods carefully cultivates…

So when customers found out that prisoners were being paid appallingly low wages for helping to create some of the artisanal foods that line the store’s shelves, they were outraged. Why shouldn’t they be? Beyond exploiting a vulnerable population of workers housed in the nation’s prisons, Whole Foods had essentially defrauded these customers.

The pretty image of Whole Foods’ good labor practices has been ripped away, and now customers are getting a glimpse at the ugly reality beneath it.

Makes me glad I’m never tempted to pay the exorbitant prices for artisanal food products and don’t shop at Whole Foods.

Navigating Developmental Disabilities Systems Conference @ JCC Tenafly

On Sunday, February 15 2015, the community is invited to the JCC on the Palisades to attend a conference on navigating the changing systems of Developmental Disabilities. This timely conference will address the critical needs that so many families of individuals with disabilities face – including housing, medicaid / entitlements, advocacy, employment and planning for adulthood.

Navigating Dev Disabilities systems confSunday, Feb 15
Registration 8:30, Program 9am-1pm
Kaplan JCC on the Palisades
411 E. Clinton Avenue
Tenafly NJ 07670

Free and open to the public but registration is required.

NJ State Senator Loretta Weinberg, D.O. Majority Leader will open the conference and the keynote will feature Ms Elizabeth M. Shea, Assistant Commissioner of Division of Developmental Disabilities followed by a panel conversation about housing options in NJ by Gail Levinson, Executive Director SHA, and Tom Toronto, President United Way of Bergen County. Additional speakers will include: Leizer Gewirtzman, Holly Martins, Jennifer Joyce, and Teresa Herrero-Taylor. Speakers will be addressing: Employment, SSI/Medicaid Eligibilities, Advocacy for Parents, and Life Care Planning and Support.

The conference is being organized by J-ADD, OHEL & JCCOTP, with many local community organizations participating as well including JFS Clifton-Passaic, Bergen County Y/JCC, JFS Bergen in Wayne, and Sinai. Register here.

Where to get legally free-to-use photos

free-stuffYou’ve become aware that copying photos and graphic images you find on the internet might be considered stealing them. This may or may not be morally wrong but breaking the law is at least a bit problematic. If you need pictures and don’t want to pay for them, here are sources for getting them legally free:

creative commons logoImages licensed under Creative Commons terms are free to use although they do have some strings attached to them (creators want to be named, for one thing). Photopin is a repository where you can find plenty of “free” Creative Commons pictures.

Getty Images is a high quality stock image bureau which now offers 35 million photos for free use. BBC reports on the reason for this policy shift:

Getty said it had made the move after realising thousands of its images were being used without attribution. “Our content was everywhere already,” said Craig Peters, a business development executive at the Seattle-based company … In essence, it is admitting defeat. By offering the ability to embed photos, Getty is saying it cannot effectively police the use of its images in every nook and cranny of the internet.

Using the Getty Image photograph embed tag creates a link that brings viewers to the company’s site and it will make you legally compliant. A Getty executive explains how to get free photos “…go to one of our customer sites and you right-click. Or you go to Google Image search or Bing Image Search and you get it there.”

You might want to note that free to use and royalty-free licenses are not the same. A royalty-free image license means that you pay a one-time fee to acquire rights to use the image, but you can use it in different projects without needing to track or worry about the number of impressions (how many times it is shown to visitors). You can also use it on different websites you’re affiliated with and in print materials.

Whereas, free to use means no money changes hands, but you may be required to honor certain conditions associated with an image’s use such as, crediting the author or owner or providing a link back to their website. And, free use images may be free only for personal – but not commercial – use. If you want to comply with the terms under which images are being offered for free use, simply read up on what they are.

Google also offers a bunch of results for the term ‘free images‘. If you find anything good, please share your findings in a comment …

Free prom dress programs across NJ and US

Prom couple

Prom coupleApril is prom month. If you’re a young lady of modest means you can be the belle of the ball with a free or low-cost designer dress ($10 is low, right?) in beautiful condition from one of the prom dress giveaway programs in New Jersey and around the country. Act soon though. Giveaways are going on right now all over the New York/New Jersey area and in many cities across the country! Some programs provide accessories and shoes to match gowns … and they may share tasty treats and other gifts with “shoppers” and their moms, as well. The idea is, that every young person should have the chance to attend prom dressed fabulously and fashionably, whether they have lots of money or don’t.

There aren’t nearly as many resources for young men looking for a suit or help renting a tux, but that doesn’t mean help is not available! My own son was gifted a free tuxedo rental from Operation Prom, so we know that as of last week, this program was working great (see details below). Post-high school women can find a fancy dress at Catherine’s Closet in Newark, so if you are a woman past high school age, visit there or just ask other giveaway shops if they can help you out. There’s never any harm in asking.

If none of the resources on this page get you the results you need, don’t be discouraged. Keep looking! There are quite a few organizations providing free or low cost prom dresses in New Jersey and around the country. Students, also ask your guidance counsellor if they know of a local program which provides free or low-cost dresses, suits or tuxes, or try reaching out to a church or youth center in your neighborhood. Remember: help is always one ask away. If you spend some time searching the net, you may turn up some good resources (this is how I found most of what’s listed here). And consider enlisting the help of a reference librarian – they are extraordinarily good at this sort of thing and most of them are delighted to assist.

If you’re a person wanting to give away a fancy dress, prom dress, accessories, or you would like to volunteer at a prom giveaway drive, I’m certain any of these organizations would love to hear from you, so just reach out!

NEWARK – Catherine’s Closet, Inc.
Distribution at 550 Broad Street, Newark NJ 973-616-2060
On Two Dates from 8:30am – 12pm (noon)
Saturday, April 13, 2013 and Saturday, May 11, 2013

Cost: $10 for student gowns & $10 dressy dresses for adults – Cash only!
Everyone is welcome, but you must come on one of the distribution dates. No ID required. All proceeds will benefit Catherine’s Closet, Inc. and scholarship funds.

Provided: Designer gowns, accessories and fancy dresses in all sizes by Armani, Jessica Mcclintock, Ralph Lauren, Vera Wang, Nordstrom’s, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s

Volunteer Opportunity!
Volunteers needed to sort the collection on Saturday, April 6, 2013 and on both Distribution Dates to be Personal Shoppers. Personal Shoppers, please wear black tops!

PATERSON AREA – Cinderella For A Day prom dress giveaway
Distribution at 105 Church Street, Totowa NJ
Saturday April 20 2013 12pm (noon) – 5pm

Cost: Free!
No one will be turned down! But students who pre-registered will get first choice.

Provided: In addition to getting a free prom dress, there are also free shoes, jewelry and accessories. There will be music, snacks, games, raffles, crafts, cool make-up tips and on-the-spot hair styling. “It’s set up like a store,” said Petrasek, “with changing stations and different stylists.”

This event is run by Natasha Civil of Bloomfield with support from Team HOPE, the Paterson Free Public Library and other community groups. For more information, feel free to contact Natasha Civil 973-393-7503 or Michelle Petrasek 973-321-1223

Beautiful prom dresses, free or very affordableTRENTON AREA – The Wish Shop
Distribution: Shop is open April through May 2013, but only Saturdays!
The Wish Shop
228 Scotch Road, Ewing NJ
Open at 10am on Saturdays. No closing time posted, so go early.

Cost: $10 gowns, accessories for $2 each, shoes $5
Or, everything free with a voucher from a community partner agency

You can visit the shop on any Saturday during prom season and buy a gown, accessories and shoes for $25 or less, or contact One Simple Wish at 609-883-8484 or and ask for a referral to get a voucher so you can have everything for free. I exchanged several emails with One Simple Wish, and still wasn’t able to learn who their community partners are, so I’m thinking that they prefer to have students to contact them individually.

The Wish Shop is the public outlet for One Simple Wish’s Project Prom. The shop offers prom gowns, shoes, jewelry and accessories to hundreds of young women, and the organization tries to connect their teen clientele with hair stylists, make-up artists, crafters, food vendors and others who wish to donate their services to help make prom a fun occasion for all. Most Saturdays when the shop is open, treats like chocolates and pastries are also served to shoppers while they peruse the collection.

Volunteer and Donation Opportunities:
Donate a Dress or Accessories: One Simple Wish collects gently worn dresses, costume jewelry and NEW dress shoes from March 1 – April 30 of each year. To arrange for a drop off or discuss a pick up, please contact the organization at 609-883-8484 or Check the One Simple Wish Meetup Group page for volunteer opportunities.

Distribution: April at various locations around the city, in Westchester, Hudson and Dutchess Counties and some New Jersey locations
Register on the website for a free prom dress or to request a free tuxedo rental.

To qualify for a free dress or tuxedo, you must be a student, and be passing your classes (proof may be requested). Donations of dresses or money are gladly accepted.

In New Jersey also check

Becca’s Closet
Locations: Freehold, Hackettstown, Washington Township (in central-west Jersey)

Cinderella’s Closet of Monmouth County – Freehold
Contact: Katie Adams and Stephanie Tomasetta 732-252-8327

And here’s a national directory of prom dress giveaway programs

Newark Museum free Apr 22-26

The Newark Museum is celebrating its centennial April 22-26 2009 with programs, performances and dance. All free, for 100 hours Wednesday through Sunday.

If you haven’t been to this gem of an educational and art venue, now’s a good time to go. On site parking for a modest fee, beautiful building.

For more information, call 973-596-6550 or visit