Good Food For All: A Culinary Program Helps The Disenfranchised

Elijah's Promise was formed 23 years ago in the New Brunswick area to help feed the underprivileged.

Photo by John Emerson.

Abby Hoffman has combined a passion for food and art with a desire to help those less fortunate. Hoffman is the volunteer chef at Elijah’s Promise—although her commitment goes way beyond the kitchen.

Elijah’s Promise was formed 23 years ago in the New Brunswick area when three local churches—St. John’s Episcopal, Emanuel Lutheran and Christ Episcopal—opened a soup kitchen. The community group, said to be Central Jersey’s largest anti-hunger organization, has survived all these years due to the commitment and generosity of longtime helpers like Hoffman.

A volunteer for Elijah’s Promise since 1999, Hoffman does much more than cook. She has helped launch farm-to-table initiatives across Middlesex County, leads healthy eating groups, and teaches a class on preparing sustainable, locally grown food.

Lisanne Finston and Michelle Wilson, directors at Elijah’s Promise, characterize Hoffman as a “tireless volunteer and advocate” for the organization. “Chef Abby is bright, energetic, hardworking and a thoughtful colleague,” says Wilson.

Hoffman, who moved to the Garden State in 1984, worked in the alcohol- and drug-prevention field prior to Elijah’s Promise. After starting her volunteer work, she went back to school at the Institute of Culinary Education of New York City. Today, she instructs aspiring cooks through the Elijah’s Promise Culinary School, which prepares low-income adults for a variety of careers in the food-service industry. “Moroccan and Middle Eastern flavors are my specialty,” she says.

The multitalented Hoffman is also a ceramic-tile maker and has made community tiles and diversity quilts for Elijah’s Promise. Another pastime is tending seasonal fruit, vegetable and herb gardens.

According to Finston and Wilson, Hoffman’s maxim could be, “Good food for all.”

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