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Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County [JFCS] has been out on the road for a full month and served its first clients through the JFCS Mobile Food Pantry.

The JFCS Mobile Food Pantry brings the experience of a food pantry directly to individuals who experience significant obstacles accessing existing resources located in Mercer County whether it is due to a lack of transportation options, physical mobility limitations or language barriers to existing services.

On February 11, the Mobile Food Pantry visited Holy Apostles Episcopal Church in Yardville, NJ. That evening the church served a free, hot dinner prepared by the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK). As the guests arrived, they were greeted by JFCS staff and volunteers helping to explain the Mobile Food Pantry.

Staff and volunteers provided checklist sheets to the dinner attendees who were able to select their preferences within food categories – dairy, fruit, vegetables, protein and grains – and quantity of each product based on their household size. Wegman’s of Princeton generously provided 1,000 reusable bags for JFCS Mobile Food Pantry patrons. JFCS was able to provide groceries to 25 individuals at Holy Apostles, benefiting over 40 total people based on reported household sizes.

The Mobile Food Pantry made its second stop on February 20 at Better Beginnings Child Development Center in Hightstown, NJ. With the Mobile Food Pantry parked in the Better Beginnings parking lot, a team from JFCS, including staff and a volunteer fluent in Spanish, helped the parents navigate the grocery selection process. In a little over 2 hours, staff and volunteers packed bags of groceries for 57 families – representing over 250 total people served. A majority of those served represented households of 4 or more family members.

“Transportation is often an issue for some of our parents and having the resources here on-site is a huge help to them,” said Luz Horta, Executive Director of Better Beginnings. “We appreciate the consideration JFCS has given to the selection of foods provided, which are nutritional, healthy, and culturally diverse. Our mission is to provide a high-quality affordable early learning childcare program to low-income working families. Through the JFCS Mobile Food Pantry our families now receive the resources for multiple meals, free of charge. Every bit helps them keep food on the table during difficult times.”

 On February 27, the Mobile Food Pantry stopped at Wheaton Pointe, a low-income senior housing facility in East Windsor, NJ. Residents had the opportunity to make selections to their personal tastes from the products on the truck. JFCS was able to provide groceries to almost 50 individuals at the stop.

The Mobile Food Pantry has already received significant recognition for the impact of this initiative.

6ABC Action News (WPVI-TV Philadelphia) was on-site to capture the Mobile Food Pantry in action at Better Beginnings. The JFCS Mobile Food Pantry will be featured in their “NJ Proud” segment airing on Sunday, March 15 during the morning show, 6 – 8 AM.

At the JFCS annual fundraiser, Casino Night, held on March 7, the agency highlighted the Mobile Food Pantry as the Beacon of Hope. The event welcomes almost 400 community members including representatives from founding corporate sponsors of the truck, Bristol Myers-Squibb, Church & Dwight, Lennar, NRG Energy and the Wawa Foundation.

Most recently, the Mobile Food Pantry earned national recognition as the winner of the Network of Jewish Human Service Agency’s 2020 Annual Conference Pillar of Excellence Award in the Innovation category.

For the month of March distribution stops are currently planned for Redding Circle, an affordable housing development in Princeton, NJ and return visits to the first three locations to start their monthly schedule.