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!

Community Food Pantry Available In Princeton / West Windsor for All Mercer Residents

August 4, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the demand for food in Mercer County. Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County (JFCS) maintains an on-site food pantry, the Yvette Sarah Clayman Kosher Food Pantry, which offers fresh and frozen options in addition to shelf staples to anyone in the community who is in need of groceries at this time.

Since March 2020, the pantry has seen double the usual demand each month with regular clientele relying more heavily on this resource, and increasing calls from community members who suddenly find themselves in need due to job loss or other financial crises.

“For those who were already vulnerable and food insecure, the challenges to safely and regularly accessing healthy food options have been compounded by COVID-19,” said Beth Englezos, Manager of Hunger Prevention at JFCS. “As benefit programs reach their end dates, we anticipate a further increase in need and are prepared to handle the rise in demand.”

The JFCS pantries normally offer a choice model, where clients are invited to select food products they know their families will eat and enjoy. Due to COVID-10 health and safety guidelines, JFCS is operating a prepared bag model where community members can set up a time for no-contact pick up of a pre-packed bag of groceries which includes non-perishable items, as well as fresh fruit and vegetables, cheese and chicken.

Where to find the JFCS Pantry?

Our pantry is located at 707 Alexander Road, Suite 204 Princeton, NJ 08540. The office is located just off of Route 1 and accessible via NJ Transit Bus Route #600/Carnegie Center stop.

How to set up a pick up time?

Call our offices at 609-987-8100 Ext 237 to set up a pick up time. Staff is available Monday – Thursday 9 AM – 5PM and Fridays 9 AM – 4 PM.

Need more info? Call us at 609-987-8100 Ext 237

Beth Englezos, Manager of Senior Programs & Hunger Prevention

Evelyn Hernandez, Program Assistant for Counseling & Hunger Prevention

VIEW AND SHARE OUR PANTRY FLYER

(English and Spanish)

Mobile Food Pantry, Six Months of Service in Mercer County, Reaching over 6,000 in need

July 27, 2020

In June 2019, Michelle Napell, Executive Director of Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County (JFCS) announced the idea for a new venture – a mobile food pantry which would deliver nutritious food directly to those in Mercer County vulnerable to food insecurity and hunger. Six months later, the JFCS Mobile Food Pantry was on the road.

Since January 2020, the JFCS Mobile Food Pantry has benefitted more than 6,000 individuals across 40 distribution stops.

“We launched in January and made three stops, which served about 350 individuals, by the end of February,” said Michelle Napell. “Then March came, and with it the COVID-19 pandemic that changed the dynamic of our community. The mobile pantry became an incredibly valuable resource as demand for food increased as well as the obstacles in getting food to those with the greatest need.”

The pandemic increased demand for food in Mercer County, especially for the elderly and other vulnerable populations. JFCS ramped up the mobile pantry distribution schedule and forged a number of new partnerships.

“At the start of the shutdown, we connected with our existing partners and made sure that the local health departments, school districts, and community agencies knew about our resources,” said Beth Englezos, Manager of Hunger Prevention. “It is incredible to see how word continues to spread through the network of community and service agencies in Mercer County. We receive new calls each week from potential distribution sites.”

The network of partners has reached 8 of the 12 municipalities across Mercer including East Windsor, Hightstown, Lawrenceville, Princeton, Robbinsville, Trenton, West Windsor, and Yardville (Hamilton). Distribution locations include churches, low-income housing, low-income senior housing, day care centers, housing for adults with disabilities, and several local schools to support their students receiving Title I benefits. The Mobile Food Pantry is making three distributions stops per week.

The JFCS Mobile Food Pantry was designed to take the healthy-choice pantry experience on the road to partner locations where there would be a captive audience in need of this support. Due to COVID-19 health and safety guidelines, the mobile pantry and brick-and-mortar pantry, located at JFCS’ Alexander Road offices, now provide pre-packed bags of food.

Staff from the Paul Robeson Charter School for the Humanities (Trenton, NJ), who organize the “Panther Pantry” to support students and their families, help JFCS staff unload a delivery of pre-packed bags of groceries to be distributed to their students.

“While we had to eliminate the choice option for the safety of staff, partners and those we serve, JFCS remained committed to offering healthy food options,” said Englezos. “We broadened our supplier network and recently we’ve been fortunate to have corporate supporters provide large-scale donations of Kosher food, including nutritious fresh and frozen products.”

For six weeks from July through August, Novo Nordisk, in partnership with their corporate food supplier, Sodexo, facilitated weekly deliveries of fresh, frozen and shelf-stable food products to JFCS for use on the mobile and on-site pantries.

“The Novo Nordisk and Sodexo connection is just one example how our existing funding partners have demonstrated innovation and generosity during these difficult times,” said Napell. “We deeply appreciate this support, especially the adherence to our Kosher guidelines.”

Representatives from Project Freedom, a network of housing developments for adults with disabilities and financial need, in front of the JFCS Mobile Food Pantry on a distribution stop.

Staff and teachers from Town Center Elementary School (West Windsor Plainsboro School District) helped at the distribution stop, one of several sponsored by Firmenich.

The brick-and-mortar pantry, [Yvette Sarah Clayman Kosher Food Pantry] and mobile food pantry, are kept Kosher in line with the agency’s Jewish roots, however both are open to the broader community regardless of background or faith.

“At the roll out, we anticipated a gradual increase in weekly stops over our first few months. The pandemic tested our capabilities and I am proud to say the team rose to the challenge,” says Napell. “We are preparing now to develop the processes and funding to get our mobile pantry on the road five days a week.”