On Saturday, April 9, the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK) and Rise will host a drive-thru food distribution to provide roughly 100,000 lbs. of groceries to approximately 1,300 households from greater Mercer County. This will be the fifth collaboration of its kind between TASK and Rise since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The distribution will take place in the Modway parking lot, located at 329 Wyckoff Mills Road in East Windsor, NJ. The event is scheduled to begin at 10:00am and food will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Each household will receive more than 75 pounds of groceries including poultry and fish; a wide variety of fresh produce; juice and milk; and paper products. Attendees will remain in their vehicles to drive through the contact-free distribution line to collect the assortment of fresh and packaged foods.

The two long-time collaborators have worked together four times before to pull off similar events. In total, TASK and Rise have provided approximately 450,000 pounds of food to roughly 4,500 households.

Since the onset of the pandemic, the demand for food has surged. According to statistics from Feeding America more than 50,000 people in Mercer County are facing food insecurity. Rise has noted a 300% increase in food pantry visits, topping over 1,000 visits each month. Meanwhile, TASK is serving approximately 8,000 meals each week at 35 meal sites – a significant increase beyond pre-pandemic rates.

Both organizations foresee that the number of food insecure will continue to grow. With an inflation at a 40-year high, consumers have been hit hard, especially at the grocery store. Food prices have jumped a record 20.7% in the last year, compounding the impact of rising gas prices, an unstable job market and continued fallout from the pandemic.

“One thing we’ve noted at our drive-thru distributions is just how many folks mention that this is their first time at an event like this,” said Joyce Campbell, TASK Executive Director. “So many people have said things like, ‘Now I can pay my bills this month.’ Consistent access to nutritious food, like the kind that TASK and Rise provide every day, is more important now than ever.”

At the March 2021 event, Philip Moody echoed Campbell’s observations. The Korean War veteran and retired custodian never thought he’d be in a food line. But, even with his benefits, grocery costs have been out of reach and he needed the help.

“After years of doing things for yourself, this is difficult and this virus hasn’t helped,” he said. “But you have to make ends meet, so here I am, and I appreciate you all being here today.”

Leslie Koppel, Rise Executive Director, said it’s about more than just food. “This event represents the power of community organizers who help our neighbors navigate tough times. It is a privilege for Rise to work with TASK and our many donors to coordinate meaningful relief for local families who are struggling.”

Rise, founded in 1967, strives to be the hub of social support services in eastern Mercer County, building a productive, cohesive environment where families thrive and feel valued, safe, and optimistic about their future. In addition to the Rise Pantry, Rise also operates the social-enterprise Rise Thrift Store and the Rise Academic Enrichment Summer Camp.

TASK, which has been serving the Mercer County region since 1982, operates the only week-day soup kitchen in Trenton. In addition to providing hot and nutritious meals, TASK offers a multitude of resources to encourage self-sufficiency and improve quality of life including social services, its Adult Education and Work Preparedness program, enrichment opportunities in the creative arts, and the provision of basic necessities.