“We have never before felt the need to open a food pantry. Since the onslaught of the pandemic, however, that need rose unmistakably from our community,” said Barrett Young, Chief Executive Officer of The Mission.
He added, “The pandemic has made it clear that those we serve are experiencing new levels of turmoil and suffering. When we reopened The Mission’s Thrift Store in the spring, we began seeing many new people who needed clothes and were also struggling to put food on their tables.”
“Too many people in our community are going to bed hungry,” Young said. “So, we knew we had to do something.” That something became the New Food Pantry, located inside The Mission’s Thrift Store, which had its official opening on September 17th.
Though The Mission has been in Trenton for over a century, serving those who are experiencing homelessness, this New Food Pantry was created to help those in our community who, while they have a roof over their heads, are struggling to make ends meet.
“Like every new program that has started here at The Mission,” Young said, “the New Food Pantry began by recognizing a need that became pronounced, which led to conversations among like-minded colleagues about what we could do together, then quickly creating a plan, and forging ahead.”
Those conversations occurred with the leadership teams at Mercer Street Friends Center and The Trenton Area Soup Kitchen, as well as several area restaurants.
As Bernie Flynn, Chief Executive Officer of Mercer Street Friends Center, underscored, “Most estimates are that, since the pandemic began, there are at least 50 percent more people in our community who are experiencing the pain of hunger.”
He added, “While certain parts of the economy are recovering, that is definitely not the case for too many people in our community who, every day, have to make very tough decisions about affording food and other necessities.”
Mercer Street Friends Center’s Food Bank is supporting The Mission’s New Food Pantry with generous deliveries of chicken, ground beef, fish, canned goods, and fresh fruit and vegetables.
Flynn noted, “Throughout the pandemic, The Mission has shown enormous resilience by being open around the clock, responding to those in our community who are experiencing homelessness and have nowhere else to turn. Now, as The Mission expands to help the working poor and those who have recently obtained housing but still need help making ends meet, we are proud to partner with them on this vital need to help our neighbors who are struggling.”
Joyce Campbell, Executive Director of the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen, resoundingly agreed. “The need is unmistakable. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have increased our food production by roughly 80% to accommodate the increased need brought on by the pandemic. And, as always, we are in this together with The Mission.”
The Trenton Area Soup Kitchen will be providing The Mission’s New Food Pantry with individual meals that have been prepared, cooked, packaged, and frozen – so that all someone will have to do is reheat each meal in a microwave oven.
“We are looking forward to this new approach,” said Young. “The ease of these packaged meals will be very helpful for those who were previously homeless and recently secured their own efficiency apartment; for those who are working more than one job, while still struggling to make ends meet; and for young families in our community who are stretching every dollar in every conceivable way.”
Several area restaurants have also volunteered to help by donating food regularly.
John Mastoris, owner of Pat’s Original Diner, a landmark that has been at 1300 South Broad Street in Trenton for more than eight decades, said, “These are challenging times for everyone in our community. I am grateful to help people in whatever way I can – particularly those who are trying to start a new life for themselves.”
Steve Jordan, owner of Blooming Grove Inn, a cozy restaurant in a house dating back to the 1700’s, located at 234 West Upper Ferry Road in Ewing, added, “In working closely with The Mission, I’ve come to appreciate that the people working there are very caring and doing something very important for others. So, I’m more than glad to help and be part of this.”
And Robert Pluta, owner of Leonardo’s II, an Italian restaurant offering traditional dishes at 2021 Brunswick Avenue in Lawrence Township, said, “Any way I can help The Mission, I’m there. You’re doing God’s work, helping those in our community who are less fortunate and have nowhere else to turn.”
“While The Mission has always found strength in collaborating with like-minded partners, the pandemic has brought us closer together to ensure that our neighbors do not go to bed hungry,” Young added.