Foodstock originated in Freehold, NJ, in 2009 as a collaboration of two cousins in the Swisher family seeking a National Honor Society service project and a Girl Scout Silver Award. They had a long history of volunteering at a local food pantry and they organized a neighborhood food drive to collect 2,000 pounds of food to stock the pantry’s empty shelves.
The initial implementation, called “A Ton of Fun”, had live music and a carnival theme with activities and games of chance. After tripling their goal that first year, the family decided to make it an annual Fall tradition but remove the weight goal from the name.
The name “Foodstock” and “Peace, Love and Food” branding was adopted in homage to the famous 1969 music festival near Woodstock, New York, billed as “An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music”.
The Woodstock-esk theme “Peace, Love and Food” is emphasized with tie-dye branding on signs, banners and a huge step-and-repeat, as well as very popular tie-dye t-shirts sold at the event. The entire event is planned and run by a small army of volunteers who do everything from weighing donations to flipping burgers to live entertainment. A number of bands perform music ranging from classic rock to danceable pop.
What started as a backyard private event with a free, open bar (primarily beer, wine and sangria) has evolved to meet regulations for public spaces. The liquor is still technically free, but attendees must purchase a wristband, after providing proof of drinking age, which also includes a free beer or wine glass.
The culture of the event is the epitome of the organization’s mission statement “to facilitate the movement of food from those who have been abundantly blessed to those who are in need, and to inspire future generations to do the same.”