WOODBRIDGE, N.J. — When she first learned about couponing, her eyes lit up.
Not because of the potential deals on her groceries. For 29-year-old Lauren Puryear, she realized that couponing was the tool she’d been looking for to bring thousands of meals to people in need.
She has set a goal of delivering 30,000 meals to people who are food insecure by her 30th birthday.
Puryear, a Woodbridge resident who is a mental health clinician, has been spending years of her time helping to feed the hungry.
It all began four years ago after the death of her grandmother, who had strongly instilled the importance of helping others.
To continue her grandmother’s legacy, in 2012, she started an organization, For The Love of Others, which aims to assist people of all backgrounds “through providing opportunities to enable them to live a purposeful life,” according to its website.
Though she had been buying food in bulk from stores like Cosco and BJ’s, or from online stores like eBay and Amazon, it wasn’t enough. She wanted to reach more people.
So, when someone told her about couponing, she quickly realized she could use this old pastime to reach not hundreds, but tens of thousands of hungry people.
“I started couponing for food items like spaghetti, meatballs, and I was (often) able to get the items for free or for little to no money,” she explained to NJ.com (http://bit.ly/2cK7vWw ).
If done correctly, she said she can feed as many as 150 people on just $20, depending on the items.
“There are coupons in the Sunday paper, or online that you can print … so I collect as many as I can, match them to the store and that is how I am able to get the items for free,” she said.
Though it appears to be a meticulous process, she said once you get the hang of it, it is fairly easy, just requiring a bit of persistence and willingness.
But for Puryear, bringing meals to those in need remains her passion.
When she’s not working at her job, the single mother of a five-year-old son toils at bringing meals to people in New Jersey, in Washington, D.C., in Baltimore, and beyond.
So far, she has delivered 5,000 meals. She’s confident she will reach her goal by next year.
“It’s probably the most exhilarating thing I could ever do in life,” she said.
Puryear holds four degrees, including a bachelor’s, two masters, and a Ph.D. in psychology.
But beyond those accomplishments, she said, “The joy of helping other people does not compare to any other accomplishment in my life.”
But she also does not forget to pass along to her son what her grandmother had passed along to the rest of her family.
“It is very important to teach him to help other people,” she said. “The little things we take for granted, the food we throw away every day … and if we just spread a little more love around, the world would be such a better place.”
Information from: NJ Advance Media.