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The HealthBarn Foundation received $1 million in grants to feed families facing food insecurity with restaurant meals during the COVID pandemic, announced during the press conference at HealthBarn/Habernickel Park in Ridgewood on 02/25/21. NorthJersey.com

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Dana Lancellotti has been named the new president and CEO of the New Jersey Restaurant and Hospitality Association.

Lancellotti, who will take on the position March 29, is currently the director of business development and tourism for Ocean County.

After eight years, Marilou Halvorsen is leaving the organization to join the American Hotel & Lodging Association as vice president of state relations and government affairs. Her tenure at the NJRHA was book-ended by two cataclysmic events for the restaurant industry: Superstorm Sandy at one end and the COVID-19 pandemic at the other.

“I’ve known Dana for over 20 years and am so pleased to see her take the reins," said Halvorsen in a press release. "She will do a tremendous job for the association and its members. Strong leadership is critical at this time.” 

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Lancellotti is taking over at a time when the restaurant industry is still reeling from the devastating impact of the pandemic. Thirty-five percent of NJ restaurants have closed either temporarily or permanently due to the health crisis, according to the association. Those that haven't, especially table-service restaurants, have seen their business drop by 40 to 80%. In addition, 85% of restaurant employees were either laid off or furloughed at the start of the pandemic; only 30% have returned to work. 

"The association is sad to see Marilou Halvorsen move on," said Anthony Bucco, chef/partner of Felina in Ridgewood and a board member, "but we are certainly excited by the potential Dana brings to the association. The next year will be pivotal for the long-term health of our industry."

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The NJRHA is the state’s leading hospitality industry representing more than 25,000 restaurants, 1,500 hotels as well as numerous bowling alleys, amusement parks and more. The industry is the state’s largest private-sector employer, employing more than 500,000 people. 

Esther Davidowitz is the food editor for NorthJersey.com. For more on where to dine and drink, please subscribe today and sign up for our North Jersey Eats newsletter.

Email: davidowitz@northjersey.com 

Twitter: @estherdavido 

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