COVID – 19 UPDATES

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Blast Hunger Series: Drive-By Breakfast Food Drive

You can help ensure our clients’ days start off on the right note by donating to our Breakfast Blitz Drive By Food Drive. Stop by to donate kosher breakfast foods and help families in need MIX UP their mornings.

Donations will benefit children of the JFCS food pantry and our partner agencies across Mercer County.

When? Thursday, February 25 & Friday, February 26 @ 10 AM – 12 PM

Where? JFCS Parking Lot 707 Alexander Road, Suite 102 Princeton NJ 08540

What? 

  • Cold Cereals
  • Oatmeal
  • Shelf Stable Milk
  • Pancake Mixes
  • Muffin Mixes
  • Breakfast Bars
  • Fruit Packed in Water

All items must be marked Kosher.

Can’t make the event? Purchase from your online store of choice & ship items directly to our offices!



Our thanks to Carli Masia, Blast Hunger Chair

Mobile Food Pantry Delivers on Promise of Help, Hope and Healing

Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County never anticipated just how vital mobility would become in the inaugural year of the Mobile Food Pantry. After one full year on the road, the mobile pantry has benefited 17,877 individuals across Mercer County through 140 distributions.

The mobile pantry program launched in late January 2020, with the first distributions made through February and early March. In mid-March, the COVID-19 pandemic took hold of the community and JFCS pivoted plans in line with the changing needs.

“The world shifted, and we were ready,” says Michelle Napell, JFCS Executive Director. “When everyone was scrambling to keep their shelves stocked in the early days of the pandemic, and the most vulnerable populations – seniors, low-income communities – were hit even harder, our Mobile Food Pantry was there to fill a growing need.”

Planning for Everything, Then Pivoting for a Pandemic

The Mobile Food Pantry was designed to bring the choice experience of the JFCS on-site pantry on the road. However, during the pandemic, the process has been modified in line with health and safety regulations. Bags are pre-packed with non-perishable pantry staples as well as frozen and fresh meat, cheese and produce. JFCS mobile pantry staff work with each distribution partner to deliver the bags in a way that works best for their constituents – at some locations, clients pickup directly from the mobile pantry with organized waiting areas to maintain social distance, and other locations have the JFCS team drop off all bags to one designated site coordinator who handles distribution to the clients.

“While we have not been able to utilize the choice model of the pantry, we have worked to find ways to add extra value through our current delivery model,” says Taryn Krietzman, RDN, Pantry Coordinator. “Each month, I prepare a nutritious and simple recipe using pantry basics and seasonal fresh items we are able to include in the bags. Recently, we have also included information about where to find COVID-19 testing and vaccination information and sites.”

The world shifted, and we were ready…in the early days of the pandemic, and the most vulnerable populations – seniors, low-income communities – were hit even harder, our Mobile Food Pantry was there to fill a growing need.

Michelle Napell

Executive Director

It has been inspiring to grow this network of support with other agencies committed to our same goals of help, hope and healing.

Beth Englezos

Manager of Hunger Prevention

Growing a Network of Support Across Mercer County

Distribution partners for the mobile pantry range from churches, to low-income housing for seniors and families, to housing for adults with disabilities, to schools, to community organizations, with new partners being added each month.

“In the midst of such challenging times, it has been inspiring to grow this network of support with other agencies committed to our same goals of help, hope and healing,” said Beth Englezos, JFCS Manager of Hunger Prevention. “Through strong partnerships, we have been able to reach even more residents of Mercer County.”

The mobile pantry had a planned roll out of two distributions per week. When demand quickly spiked in the early stages of the pandemic, the distribution schedule ramped up to meet the needs.

“The speed at which the program grew was directly attributable to the immediate and severe impact of the pandemic on vulnerable communities,” said Englezos. “Our plan was to average two stops per week over the first year as we developed a network of partners and refined our process. We are regularly on the road 3 – 4 times each week, and our network continues to grow.”

The Power of Community in a Crisis

“One of the main goals of the mobile pantry is reaching people in their communities who are not able to get to our pantry or other resources in the area. However, there are still many homebound clients within these communities. 

There is a gentleman at one of our client pick-up stops who volunteers as a helpful neighbor and brings groceries directly to the doors of people who are not able to make it down to the Mobile Food Pantry. We get as close as we can, but he goes the extra mile.” 

Taryn Krietzman, RDN, Pantry Coordinator

“We can’t thank you enough for the work JFCS does for our families. You should know that you make a direct and positive impact to our students’ and families’ well-being and we are very grateful for your generosity and good will.  We count ourselves extremely lucky to work alongside JFCS.”

Elizabeth Gura, M.S., School Counselor, Millstone River School

What you are doing is directly impacting the community and together we are doing the work. Thank you again and again for help!

Taylor Block, Panther Pantry, Paul Robeson Charter School

Preparing for the Road Ahead

In addition to an increased delivery schedule, the mobile pantry fleet also grew. In November, JFCS purchased a van, now names Poppy’s Pantry. The van purchase was funded by a private family foundation in memory of Stuart “Poppy” Plotkin.

“The second vehicle allows us to reach even further into the community by accommodating distributions of all sizes and giving us more flexibility when picking up donations from local food drives or other supplies,” said Napell.

JFCS remains poised to adapt the mobile pantry program in the coming months as the situation surrounding COVID-19 evolves.

“First and foremost, we remain committed to providing nutrient-rich foods to the community. We hope to return to a choice model as soon as possible as it provides not only a sense of autonomy and empowerment to those we serve, but also reduces waste, when clients can select items they know their family enjoys,” says Krietzman. “In the short term, we have started to vary protein options offered to clients and allow them to make those selections at distributions sites which allow for this interaction. One by one, we will return more choices to the hands of the clients.”

“The pandemic has brought to light the severity of existing need right here in our Mercer community; many of those we serve were in vulnerable positions even before the pandemic,” says Napell. “We are ready to adapt with each phase and will be here for our entire community on the long road back to ‘normal.’ ”

Learn more about our Mobile Food Pantry…

Follow our journey on Facebook and Instagram to see where in the (Mercer) world our mobile fleet is week after week!

JFCS Honors Volunteers at First Virtual Annual Event

Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County (JFCS) has pivoted their annual fundraiser to a virtual format. The event, Cheers to the Volunteers, set for Thursday, March 25, 2021 at 8 PM, will feature an interactive, virtual wine or coffee tasting for guests.

“Our annual event is an opportunity to bring together community members, donors and partners to celebrate the agency and recognize the efforts of partners who are honored for their exceptional support in the past year,” said Michelle Napell. “In such challenging times, JFCS has been fortunate to be supported by many partners, but we knew this year our volunteers were the true stars.”

The event will be honoring 70 individuals who volunteered throughout the pandemic, specifically in support of JFCS relief efforts in the most challenging times.

“Almost as quickly as the world changed, and JFCS pivoted programs, there were volunteers new and old reaching out to help,” says Eden Aaronson, Coordinator of Volunteers & Community Programs.

Since March 2020, a steady corps of volunteers has helped maintain new programs launched directly in response to the needs JFCS recognized among their clients and the community including making Friendly Weekly Phone Calls to isolated seniors, and grocery shopping for elderly clients unable or uncomfortable navigating the stores. When visits to the JFCS on-site pantry doubled and Mobile Food Pantry distributions ramped up, volunteers were there to pack bag after bag of groceries for distribution. And, twice a week, every week, Kosher Meals on Wheels volunteers show up to deliver hot meals to homebound seniors.

“While we look forward to the day we can welcome hundreds of guests into a ballroom, we are looking forward to creating a celebratory and community spirit through our virtual program,” says Jennifer Agran, JFCS Board First Vice President and Event Chair.

The virtual event will allow guests to select their beverage of choice – red wine, white wine, sparkling wine, Kosher wine or gourmet coffee – and beverages will be shipped directly to their homes. On March 25, guests are invited to join a live Zoom event during which they will be moved into breakout rooms based on their beverage selection and led in an interactive, guided tasting with a wine sommelier or coffee expert.

Event Information including sponsorships and registration can be found on our event site.

Presenting Sponsor: Personal Home Care of New Jersey.

Champion Sponsors Abrams Foundation/Nati Kushner, Crook & Marker, Pat & Ray Schlaefer and Troutman Pepper; Patron Sponsors Access Property Management and Homewatch Caregivers; and Supporter Sponsors First Bank, Gerhsen Group LLC, Hill Wallack LLP, and Orland’s Ewing Memorial Chapel.

JFCS Women’s Alliance Raises Over $80,000 to Help Support Food Insecure Residents of Mercer County

November 5, 2020

Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County [JFCS] held its second annual event for the JFCS Women’s Alliance, a membership-based collaboration of women focused on addressing hunger in Mercer County.

To date, the Women’s Alliance had raised $80,478 in donations and pledges. The funds raised can support over 10 weeks of distributions through the JFCS Mobile Food Pantry. The Mobile Food Pantry has benefitted over 11,000 individuals since its launch in January of 2020.

This year the JFCS Women’s Alliance introduced tiered giving levels to open membership to more women, particularly to include those whose giving abilities may have been impact by the pandemic, but still wanted to be a part of the group and support the JFCS Mobile Food Pantry.

“We were so impressed with the response to the Women’s Alliance this year,” said Michelle Napell, Executive Director of JFCS. “From the overwhelming response, it is clear people want to give, they want to have their dollars make an impact in their community.”

The pandemic has dramatically increased need for food across all communities, including Mercer County. According to Feeding America, the food insecurity rate in Mercer is expected to reach 13.6% by the end of 2020, representing over 50,000 individuals.

On October 29, all 126 Women’s Alliance members were invited to tune in live to the virtual event, “Community & Resilience” an interview with Joanne Canady-Brown, owner of The Gingered Peach (Lawrenceville, NJ) and Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Fellow, James Beard Foundation.

“When planning our event, we not only wanted to share about our mobile pantry program, but also take this opportunity to highlight the theme of ‘community and resilience’ through a local story,” said Napell. “Joanne, as a local, small-business owner, certainly showed resilience as she has kept her business going through the pandemic, and through the challenges of this year, she never hesitated to give back to her community despite facing her own obstacles.”

Canady-Brown shared her personal story including her journey in opening The Gingered Peach six years ago, the challenges of navigating the pandemic as a small business owner, and her family inspirations that led to her career in baking and developing a resilient spirit.

“Joanne spoke about her upbringing, and the role food played in building that sense of family and community. She reflected that her family was economically challenges and food was the ‘only vehicle to celebrate’ and used as a way to show love,” noted Napell. “This message resonates with how JFCS approaches our pantry distributions, it is not just about handing out food items, we give with care and compassion to those we serve. We take pride in offering fresh, healthy food items that can truly be a center of a family celebration.”

To learn more about becoming a member or supporting the Women’s Alliance, contact Helaine Isaacs at 609-987-8100 Ext 104 or HelaineI@jfcsonline.org.

See this story in the November 11 edition of Town Topics.

JFCS Women’s Alliance Tackling Increasing Hunger during COVID-19

October 5, 2020

In 2019, Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County [JFCS] introduced the Women’s Alliance, a membership-based collaboration of women focused on addressing hunger in Mercer County. With 78 Founding Members and 25 additional donors contributing over $84,000, the group served as the largest collective founding sponsor of the JFCS Mobile Food Pantry.

Entering its second year, the Women’s Alliance is inviting new and returning members to support this initiative. The Women’s Alliance committee recognized it was more important than ever to support programs addressing food insecurity despite facing the obstacles of creating an engaging, group-based effort in the midst of a pandemic.

“In speaking with Michelle Napell, the JFCS Executive Director, I learned how drastically the pandemic has impacted already vulnerable populations, right here in our community,” said Robin Persky, founding member of JFCS Women’s Alliance and member of the Women’s Alliance Event Committee. “Not only are those populations facing greater challenges to accessing food, but now we have thousands more in need because of job loss and the overall economic impact of COVID. There are so many who never needed the support of a pantry and are now turning to JFCS and other community resources.”

The Women’s Alliance will once again support the JFCS Mobile Food Pantry, which launched in January 2020. The pandemic has accelerated the impact of the mobile program with 3-4 stops being made each week at partner distribution sites across Mercer County. In accordance with health and safety guidelines, the mobile pantry is delivering pre-packed bags of groceries in a contact free manner. JFCS continues to serve healthy options including meat, dairy and fresh produce in addition to non-perishable items. The goal is to return to an all choice pantry when social distancing restrictions are lifted and it is safe to do so.

“We are incredibly appreciative of the Women’s Alliance Committee members for remaining dedicated to their mission in the midst of this pandemic,” said Michelle Napell, Executive Director. “Their support is needed now more than ever.”

The Women’s Alliance Committee has tapped Joanne Canady-Brown to serve as the keynote speaker at their virtual event for members in October. Canady-Brown is the owner of The Gingered Peach in Lawrenceville, NJ and a James Beard Foundation Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Fellow. The virtual event will feature Canady-Brown being interviewed by Nora Muchanic, former Action News New Jersey correspondent (6abc Action News) to share her story of “Community and Resilience” from building up her current business, to navigating the challenges of COVID-19 as a small business owner, and how through it all, she has found support from her community, and in turn supported those in need.

This year, there are three membership levels: Contributing Member for minimum donation of $180, Supporting Member for a minimum donation of $540, and Sustaining Member for minimum donation of $1,000. All members will be listed on JFCS Website, in Annual Report and be able to attend the 2020 Member Event, being held virtually:                                    

Event: Community & Resilience – An Interview with Joanne Canady-Brown, owner of The Gingered Peach, by Nora Muchanic, former Action News NJ correspondent

Date: Thursday, October 29, 2020      

Time: 12 – 1 PM

Location: Held via Zoom

Private Event for Women’s Alliance Members Only, link provided upon registration

Find more information and additional benefits associated with each membership level on our Women’s Alliance Giving page.

To become a member of the JFCS Women’s Alliance for 2020-2021, contact Helaine Isaacs, Development Associate at 609-987-8100 Ext 104 or HelaineI@jfcsonline.org

Snack Attack Halloween Food Drive

It’s Halloween 2020, help spread cheer, not germs! Our Halloween Snack Drive-By Food Drive will be collecting individually wrapped Kosher snacks.

Snack bags will benefit children of the JFCS food pantry and our partner agencies across Mercer County.

When? Sunday, October 25 from 2 – 5 PM

Where? JFCS Parking Lot 707 Alexander Road, Suite 102 Princeton NJ 08540

What? Donate individually wrapped snacks:

  • Candy
  • Popcorn
  • Pretzels
  • Chips
  • Veggie Straws
  • Cookies
  • Fruit Snacks
  • Cereal Bars

All items must be marked Kosher.

Can’t make the event? Check out our Amazon Wishlist to ship items directly to our offices!


Our thanks to Carli Masia, Snack Attack Chair

Registration Open for 2020 Mercer County Turkey Trot (Virtual Event!)

September 21, 2020

The Mercer County Turkey Trot, hosted by Rounview Capital, will be held virtually November 21 – 29, 2020. The event supports food pantries and food banks in Mercer County including the JFCS Mobile Food Pantry and on-site pantry.

Registration is now open! Join Team JFCS at registration and help us be the Biggest Bunch yet again.

The growing need for food in Mercer County, and how JFCS is adapting to meet the need

September 10, 2020

JFCS held a virtual Funders Forum for our most dedicated supporters of agency food pantries and food distribution programs. The presentation shared how drastically the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the need for food across the world, including in Mercer County.

According to Feeding America, by the end of 2020, the food insecurity rate in Mercer County is expected to rise to 13.6%. This means over 50,000 men, women and children in our county will be food insecure.

JFCS also used the forum to share the impact our agency has made through our Mobile Food Pantry, on-site pantry and distribution programs.

View the entire presentation here:

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Hake, M., E. Engelhard, A. Dewey, C. Gundersen (2020). The Impact of the Coronavirus on Food Insecurity [Brief series]. Available from Feeding America.

Kenneally, B. (2020). America at Hunger’s Edge, New York Times Magazine.

US Department of Agriculture, (2019). Definitions of Food Security. Available online.

Preparing for the Jewish Holidays during COVID-19

August 28, 2020

The Jewish High Holidays begin in one month. The celebrations of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, mark an important time for the Jewish community. Families and friends gather for large meals to celebrate together, synagogues welcome in hundreds from the community to observe. However, like so many significant events, COVID-19 has disrupted plans for the High Holidays.

With the prospect of Zoom gatherings and streamed services, it can be difficult to manage our emotions and feel prepared to mark these days of celebration and reflection to the fullest.

On Thursday, August 27, Andrea Gaynor, LCSW and Beverly Rubman, Chaplain, will co-host “Holiness at Home: Observing the High Holidays Outside of the Synagogue.” The webinar will examine the many ways in which Elul, the month preceding Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, presents opportunities to prepare both spiritually and psychologically. Also, they will discuss how to make High Holiday virtual services more personally meaningful and relevant.

View the Recording of the Webinar Here!