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A Conversation with Vanessa Van Noy – Founder of Headstands for Hunger

Updated: Feb 7, 2020

On Sunday, November 3rd 250+ yogis and supporters will gather at the Convention Center in Asbury Park for the 7th Annual Headstands for Hunger event, all with one mission – feed as many people and pets as possible. Last year’s event raised more than 12,000Lbs of food for people and pets. This year the suggested donation is $10 pp and 10Lbs of non-perishable food items for people and pets.

I recently had the pleasure to speak with Vanessa Van Noy, Founder of Headstands for Hunger.

Vanessa first found yoga twenty years ago, after giving up an adolescent lifestyle full of unhealthy decisions, no drive and little interest in an active fitness routine. For nearly sixteen years, Vanessa has been teaching yoga in the New York metro area, having become an internationally-recognized Yoga Instructor, Certified Thai Yoga Therapist and Humanitarian. She has been featured in worldwide magazines and various yoga inspired websites including Yoga magazine, The Elephant Journal, and Gaiam TV.

In Nov of 2013, Vanessa founded Headstands for Hunger, an annual yoga-based community event, with the goal of feeding hungry people and homeless animals in Monmouth County, along with the help of local yoga teachers and photographers donating their time and talent.

Sharon: I asked Vanessa “What was your motivation behind starting Headstands for Hunger?”

Vanessa: “I was once an ambassador for Lulu Lemon and they encouraged us to do community outreach. Prior to that it hadn’t enter my mind, but that encouragement was the spark 7 years ago. It was fall and I thought a Food Drive would be nice and as an animal advocate and activist I wanted to include animals as well. It just so happened that same year the MCSPCA built the pet food pantry and the concept naturally came together. So I Invited studio heads that I knew and our annual event was born.”

Sharon: “I understand that each year the event has a theme, what will be different this year?”

Vanessa: “This year’s theme is The Future Is Kind, focusing on Kids – and will include some young people who instruct yoga, a kid’s panel discussion, live musical events, including singing and guitar, plus a special performance by local sensation Sofia Montalbano. The event will truly have something for everyone to enjoy including a Puppy kissing booth, vendors, yoga, food, kid friendly stuff, jewelry, handmade items, folks from Asbury fresh, a photo booth and much more. And, dogs on a leash are welcome to attend.”

Sharon: “What is the most rewarding part of Headstands for Hunger?”

Vanessa: So many things. Each year the event gets a little easier while growing in attendees and food collection. Last year we had 250+ attendees and collected 12,000Lbs of food for people and pets. Also early in my career studios were few and far between, now there are multiple studios in each town. The event is a great opportunity for owners to come together in a neutral place to do a community service event. The event is a great reminder that cooperation is better than competition because there is plenty of opportunity for all of us, and we can all share.”

Sharon: “Is food insecurity a problem in Monmouth & Ocean?”

Vanessa: “I was food insecure as a child, you would never know it because we were an average American family, but I was. And so are many children in towns like Long Branch, Keansburg, Asbury, parts of Neptune – etc. Food insecurity impacts a lot of kids in the school system.”

Vanessa’s long term goal is to grow Headstands for Hunger to support all two hundred affiliated national food banks across the country.

Please show your support and join us Sunday, Nov 3rd. Doors open at 8:30 and at 9:30 attendees are invited to participate in 1 yoga class appropriate for all levels and ages – no Headstands required. The rest of the day is all about having fun and making new friends.

For more information about Headstands for Hunger please visit

This article appears in the October 2019 issue of Natural Awakenings Monmouth/Ocean edition. Click here to subscribe today!

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