Kathleen DiChiara
Founder, Community FoodBank of New Jersey
New Jersey Hall of Fame, Class of 2013: Unsung Hero

Kathleen DiChiara likes to say, “I’m not special,” but don’t tell that to all the families she helped to feed over more than three decades at the helm of the charitable organization she founded.

It started in 1975, when DiChiara began collecting food and distributing it to the needy in downtown Newark from the back of her station wagon. She was determined to do whatever she could to feed those less fortunate than she. Her one-woman mission was the seed for what would become the largest anti-poverty and anti-hunger organization in New Jersey.

Three years after her first effort to feed the hungry, DiChiara officially launched the Emergency Food Program of the Archdiocese of Newark. By 1982, she had formed a nonprofit corporation, the Community FoodBank of New Jersey. In its first year, CFBNJ, operating with a staff of five in a former Newark slaughterhouse, distributed 75,000 pounds of food to 80 charities.

With DiChiara at the helm, CFBNJ grew steadily. By the time she retired in 2015, the organization had more than 200 employees and thousands of volunteers, working out of the 285,000-square-foot CFBNJ headquarters in Hillside and a southern branch in Egg Harbor Township. Each year, it distributes more than 40 million pounds of food through more than 1,000 partner charities, including food pantries, soup kitchens, mobile pantries, and child and senior feeding programs.

In addition to making a difference for so many people in need, DiChiara has been a barrier breaker. In a 2019 interview, she recalled her beginnings. “When I was getting out of high school, what was open for careers for women was that you could be a secretary, you could be a nurse, or you could be a teacher. In the food industry, when I was starting out, I can remember attending some meetings where there were maybe only one or two other women. It wasn’t easy being the only women there.”

Despite such challenges, DiChiara persevered and established an organization that became a lifeline for thousands in New Jersey.

Intro/Acceptance Video