With Atlantic City casinos dark due to coronavirus, their food feeds the needy

With Atlantic City casinos dark due to coronavirus, their food feeds the needy


Carmelo Alvira, steward supervisor at Bally’s unloads food at the Atlantic City Rescue Mission on March 24, 2020. (Photos by Tim Hawk | NJ Advance Media, unless noted)

Daniel Brown smiled as he leaned on the back of a white box truck while Caesars Entertainment employees unloaded boxes of produce at the Atlantic City Rescue Mission.

The president and CEO of the mission knew the food would help feed his clients for weeks to come.

“A lot of times, you know, the homeless are forgotten and when we see that they’re not forgotten because honestly, this could be going to a lot of other places,” he said.

When Gov. Phil Murphy ordered the casinos to temporarily close last Monday to help stem the spread of the coronavirus, it left them with an abundance of perishable food. Since the restaurants inside the casinos were also shut down and the food would likely spoil, they decided to help the local community.

Tuesday’s deliveries, from Caesars Entertainment, fell upon the shoulders of Jerry Beaver, food and beverage director for Bally’s and Caesars, and two other Bally’s employees.

James McCray, supervising cook at the Salvation Army Atlantic City Corps, unloads produce.

After filling the truck with perishables from Bally’s, the first stop of the day was the mission.

“I got nine pallets here, mainly of melons, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, every kind of vegetable that you can think of, and some dairy,” Beaver said,

Weeks ago this same food would be feeding patrons in restaurants such as Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill, Guy Fieri’s Chophouse and Martorano’s.

Now it will go to the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, Southern Branch, the Salvation Army Atlantic City Corps and the Atlantic City Rescue Mission. And the last delivery of the day — vegetables not fit for human consumption — will go to the Funny Farm Rescue & Sanctuary in Hamilton Township, Atlantic County.

“Obviously it’s a tough time and an unprecedented time for the community so we’re happy to get these relief efforts out there and do what we can while we are closed,” said Noel Stevenson, regional director of public relations for Caesars Entertainment.

The Atlantic City Rescue Mission feeds approximately 400 to 500 clients three meals a day, Brown said, and “it’s quite delightful and way helpful” when businesses like casinos can drop off food.

“This just means the world to us having the support of our community and the people around us,” Brown said.

Vegetables courtesy of Caesars are devoured at Funny Farm Rescue & Sanctuary in Hamilton Township. (Photo courtesy of Caesars Entertainment)

Just a short drive from the mission, the 30-foot box truck maneuvered its way through the quiet city streets towards the next delivery at the Salvation Army Atlantic City Corps. Outside of the Texas Avenue building, a line was already forming for the 12 p.m. soup kitchen and the 1 p.m. food pantry.

The food that Beaver and his associates dropped off would mainly go to the food pantry, said Capt. Frank Picciotto, Atlantic City Corps commanding officer. The pantry feeds approximately 60 families a day.

“Produce is the most expensive thing, usually, that you purchase at a supermarket,” said Picciotto. “So this will help families.”

Last week Caesars Entertainment donated more than 33,000 pounds of food during two days of delivery to the same locations. Tuesday they topped that number by delivering approximately 40,000 pounds which, according to Beaver, clears them out for about a month’s spoilage.

“We are living in unprecedented times and now more than ever, it’s important for our customers, team members, and local communities to know that we are in this together,” said Caesars Entertainment Regional President Ron Baumann.

Jerry Beaver, food and beverage director for Bally’s and Caesars, left, talks to Daniel Brown, president and CEO of the Atlantic City Rescue Mission as food is delivered March 24, 2020.

Vegetables from Caesars arrives the Funny Farm Rescue & Sanctuary. (Photo courtesy of Caesars Entertainment)

Noah Malizia, right, unloads produce that was delivered from Bally’s on March 24, 2020.

Beaver holds up a cantaloupe as food is delivered to the Rescue Mission March 24, 2020.

Tim Hawk may be reached at thawk@njadvancemedia.com. Follow Tim on Instagram@photog_hawk and Twitter @photogthawk. Have a tip? Tell us. nj.com/tips.

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