December 27, 2021
Lawrence Township Community Foundation recently granted $31,540 to several local community organizations for their fall cycle, including JFCS in support of mobile food pantry efforts.
The end of year is always a time to reflect and set goals for the year ahead. JFCS is sharing inspiring stories of how our programs have helped the individuals, families and community we serve move forward after another challenging year for all.
Valerie’s Journey of Healing…
Valerie reached out to JFCS after recognizing the severity of the anxiety and depression she was experiencing. After making the commitment to counseling and putting new skills into action, Valerie felt empowered to address the root of her most severe symptoms – low self-esteem caused by lack of boundaries in challenging relationships. By tackling the causes of her anxiety and depression, Valerie soon felt confident to move forward from therapy.
“My counselor was exceptional and did an excellent job listening without judgment and providing professional support. I am extremely grateful for this experience and am looking forward to moving past my anxiety.”
Helping Arthur and Ruth Move Forward with Confidence…
The JFCS senior service team received a call from Arthur, who lives out of state, and was concerned about his 90 year-old mother who lives alone in the Princeton community. While the son was in town, one of our geriatric care managers scheduled an appointment to meet with both Arthur and his mother, Ruth. The care manager did a thorough assessment including home safety, social supports, meal shopping/preparation and transportation options. A plan of care was developed to address these issues. Arthur left for home feeling like a “weight had been lifted from his shoulders.”
He knew he was no longer alone to deal with the challenges that lie ahead. JFCS receives many calls like this and our expert team of geriatric care managers is available to provide guidance and support to those in similar situations.
Melinda Finds Hope at the Pantry…
Melinda is a grandmother who serves as the primary guardian to both grandsons. She lives on a fixed income and is the full-time caregiver to both children, one of whom has significant physical special needs, requiring in-home therapy and care. It is difficult for Melinda to get out of the house, but thankfully, she is in counseling with one of our JFCS therapists who referred her to the pantry team. Our pantry team was able to identify one of our local mobile food pantry stops where Melinda can easily and conveniently pick up groceries. Melinda was also able to receive gift cards through the LIGHTS program so she could purchase holiday gifts for her grandsons, something out of reach without this support.
“With a resource coming right to my neighborhood, it is a huge relief. I face serious financial challenges as the sole caregiver for my grandsons, and I am so appreciative of any help. Even the smallest gesture makes a big difference in our lives.”
Stories like those of Valerie, Arthur, Ruth and Melinda are just some examples of the impact we have made, together, over the past year. You can read further about how JFCS has served the community this year in our latest Annual Report.
We thank all of those who have supported us, especially in these ongoing, challenging times. We hope you can once again trust JFCS to care for those in need with an end of year gift. Help us move into the new year with help, hope & healing.
Thanksgiving is an exciting time to eat some of our favorite holiday foods. We could go on and on about Thanksgiving fare, but the reality is that making too many dishes can be stressful! Check out the following tips to spend less time and money in the kitchen.
- Keep it simple by focusing on favorites – choose your favorite 2 vegetable sides & 1-2 starchy side dishes to make and enjoy without going overboard. You can make other dishes any day of the year without the pressure of the big day!
- Make only what you will need – Thanksgiving leftovers are great, but buying too much can put you over budget and creates waste.
- Basic is best – Often our favorite recipes are the most simple. Choose recipes without extra ingredients. This saves time shopping AND in the kitchen. Making dishes from scratch is often less expensive too.
When it comes to Thanksgiving, thinking ahead can save the day!
Giving ourselves time to decide what’s really important minimizes holiday stress. Prioritizing can keep us focused and on-track to stay within budget and to make healthier choices.
- Prioritize only a few of your “Must-Have” favorite dishes and choose recipes in advance. You can make other dishes any day of the year.
- Purchase November’s in-season produce while it’s at the lowest price and its peak of freshness (winter squashes, collards, cabbage, sweet potato, kale, carrots, apples, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cranberries etc.)
- Make it ahead. Schedule a prep day where you can get some foods done in advance. Many can be stored in the freezer for weeks and just need to be reheated (soup, casseroles, pie, etc.)
- Use a slow cooker if you have one. Many recipes can be adapted to be made in a slow cooker. It takes up little space and reduces your active cooking time.
- Poultry swap. Turkey is often the most expensive item at Thanksgiving. Cut the cost by:
- Purchasing store-brand turkey
- Choosing a smaller bird and focus on the side dishes
- Substituting chicken and prepare it with the same care you would for a turkey
- Buying turkey pieces instead of the whole bird
Roasted Turkey Breast
For when you don’t want to cook a whole bird (try it with chicken!)
- 5 lbs Turkey Breast, bone in & skin on
- 2 tbsp Butter, softened
- 2 large Garlic Cloves, minced
- 1 tbsp Rosemary
- 1 tsp Smoked Paprika
- 2 tsp Salt
- Black Pepper, to taste
- 3 cups Water
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
- In a small bowl, add softened butter, garlic, rosemary, smoked paprika, salt & pepper. Mix thoroughly.
- Rub turkey breast with seasoned butter all around, starting from the bottom with bone side.
Place turkey breast side up on a rack and then put rack inside the baking dish. Pour water into the pan underneath the turkey.
- Bake uncovered for 20 minutes on a bottom rack.
- Loosely cover with foil and bake for 70-80 minutes more or until internal temperature in the deepest part of meat reaches 150 – 155 degrees F.
For a more naturally sweetened sauce
12 oz Cranberries, fresh or frozen
1/3 Cup Maple Syrup or Honey
1/4 Cup Orange Juice (use zest of oranges if fresh)
1/8 tsp Vanilla (optional)
1/8 tsp Cinnamon (optional)
- Add cranberries, syrup or honey, and orange juice to a pot.
- Cover and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to medium and cook for 6 more minutes.
- Remove lid and add vanilla & cinnamon (optional). Stir and cook for another 3 minutes or until cranberries are broken down and the sauce has thickened.
Thanksgiving Stuffed Acorn Squash
For a new dish to serve featuring seasonal vegetables.
For the Squash
3 Acorn Squash, small
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper, to taste
For the Stuffing
- 1 Onion, chopped
- 3 Garlic Cloves, minced
- 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
- 1 lb Lean Turkey, ground
- 3 Cups spinach/kale, chopped
- 2 tsp Dried Rosemary
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- Hard Cheese & Parsley for garnish (optional)
- Cut squash in half and scoop out the seeds. (save them to toast later)
- Place squash cut side up on a large baking sheet. Brush with 1 tbsp of oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 30 minutes.
- In the meantime, prepare the stuffing. Place a large skillet over medium-low heat.
- Add oil onion and garlic and cook until translucent and fragrant. Add turkey and cook for another 7-8 minutes while mixing and breaking up the meat.
- Add remaining ingredients. Mix together and cook for another few minutes.
- After the squash have roasted for 30 minutes, remove them from the oven. Carefully stuff the centers with the stuffing & sprinkle on cheese (optional).
- Return the stuffed squash to the oven and bake another 25-30 minutes until the top is golden brown and the squash can be easily pierced with a fork.
Toasted Acorn Squash Seeds
For a crunchy & salty snack while waiting for dinner.
Acorn Squash Seeds
Oil of your choosing, enough to lightly coat
Salt, to taste
- Heat oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking tray with foil.
- Remove squash pulp from seeds as best as possible.
- In a bowl, drizzle oil onto the seeds to lightly coat. Add salt and mix.
- Spread the seeds on your baking sheet in a single layer and place into the oven.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes, tossing the seeds with a spatula once or twice during the cooking time.
- Remove once they are golden and fragrant.
Garlic Green Beans
For a deliciously simple vegetable side dish.
1.5 lbs Fresh Green Beans, ends trimmed
3 Tbsp Water
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
3-4 Garlic Cloves, minced
Salt & Black Pepper to taste
- Preheat large ceramic non-stick skillet on medium heat.
- Add green beans and 3 tbsp water. Cover and cook for 4 minutes.
- Remove the lid and if there is any water left, cook green beans until water has evaporated.
- Push beans to the side. Add olive oil and garlic. Cook for 30 seconds and then stir with green beans. Season with salt & pepper.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
For a traditional & simple seasonal vegetable side.
2 lbs Brussels Sprouts, fresh
3 Tbsp Olive Oil
Salt & Black Pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with foil.
- Trim the ends and remove outer leaves from brussels sprouts.
- Place brussels sprouts on baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Mix with hands to evenly coat with oil and seasonings. Spread into a single layer.
- Bake for 40 mins, tossing with a spatula 1-2 times after the 30 minute mark.
Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes
For a hassle-free slow cooker recipe (try it with sweet potatoes!)
5 lbs Potatoes, peeled & cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 Cup of Lowfat or Plant-Based Milk
1/2 Cup Low-Sodium Broth
3 Garlic Cloves, smashed
1/3 Cup Plain Greek Yogurt
1/4 Cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
Salt & Black Pepper to taste
Sliced Green Onions or Chives for garnish (optional)
- Place potato cubes along with milk, broth, salt, black pepper, and garlic into a slow cooker. Toss to combine.
- Cover the crock and cook for about 3-4 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low.
- When the potatoes are tender, mash them directly in the slow cooker to your desired consistency.
- Add yogurt and grated parmesan, and season to taste.
- Place the lid back on the crock pot and heat through for another 15-20 minutes before serving. Garnish if desired.
Seasonal Squash Soup
For a hearty seasonal soup you can make ahead (try with any winter squash!)
- 1 Butternut Squash, peeled, seeded, & cubed (save your seeds to toast later)
- 2 Tbsp Oil
- 1 Onion, chopped
- 1 Stalk Celery, chopped
- 1 Medium Carrot, chopped
- 32 oz Low-Sodium Broth
- Salt & Black Pepper, to taste
- Add oil to a large soup pot. Add onion, celery, carrot and squash and cook for 5 minutes, or until lightly browned.
- Pour in enough of the chicken stock to cover vegetables. Bring to a boil then reduce to low heat and cover. Simmer for 40 minutes, or until all vegetables are tender.
- Carefully, transfer the soup to a blender (or use an immersion blender), and blend until smooth.
- Mix in any remaining stock to attain desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper.
- Allow soup to cool, and then pour into a freezer-safe container. Leave space at the top for expansion.
- Place in the freezer until ready to use.
- Thaw overnight in the refrigerator if desired. Reheat in a pot on the stove.
For a healthy dessert that highlights beautiful seasonal apples.
4 Large Apples
3 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, softened
1/4 Cup of Brown Sugar or Honey
1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1/8 tsp Ground Nutmeg
1/3 Cup Whole Rolled Oats
2 Tbsp Raisins/Dried Cranberries/Chopped Nuts (optional)
- In a bowl, mash butter, sugar/honey, oats, cinnamon, and nutmeg together until combined. Add raisins/dried cranberries/nuts, if using. Set aside.
- Core the apples: Use an apple corer or a sharp paring knife and a spoon. Cut around the core, about 3/4 down into the apple. Use a spoon to carefully dig out the core.
- Place cored apples in a baking pan with sides. Spoon filling into each apple p to the top.
- Pour water into the pan around the apples to cover the bottom.
- Bake for 40-45 minutes or until apples are to your desired softness.
- Remove apples from the oven and allow to rest 5 minutes. Serve warm.
Prep-Ahead Pumpkin Pie
For a traditional dessert you can make in advance
1 Store-Bought Pie Dough
3 Eggs, large
15 oz can 2 cups pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
1/2 cup your choice of milk
1/2 cup maple syrup or honey
1/2 tsp vanilla
1.5 tsp pumpkin pie spice**
1/4 tsp salt
**Make & store your own pumpkin pie spice in a jar by mixing 1/4 cup ground cinnamon, 1 Tbsp ground nutmeg, 1 Tbsp ground ginger and 1 tsp ground cloves
- Preheat oven to 350F
- In a medium bowl, add eggs and whisk for 30 seconds.
- Add pumpkin puree, milk, maple syrup, vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, salt and whisk together.
- Pour your pie filling into pre-baked crust and bake pie for 55 minutes.
Freeze & Store…
- Let the pie cool completely.
- Wrap the pie tightly in a few layers of plastic wrap.
- Label the pie with the freeze date and place in freezer.
- Thaw overnight in refrigerator before serving.
November 12, 2021
The Trentonian covered the three-day partner event between United Way of Greater Mercer County and NRG Energy where more than 1,000 Thanksgiving meals were packaged up for local food pantries, including JFCS. Our agency received 250 bags to distribute through our mobile and on-site food pantries.
Diversified Rack & Shelving partnered with East Windsor Township Mayor Janice S. Mironov, to present $10,000 in donations to four community organizations: $2,500 to RISE Community Service Partnership to support their food distribution program, $2,500 to Mercer County Meals on Wheels, $2,500 to Jewish Family & Children’s Service for their mobile food truck, and $2,500 to the East Windsor Senior Trust Fund for senior programming.
The 1st Annual JFCS Wheels for Meals welcomed over 250 cyclists on a foggy autumn morning to Mercer County Community College. To date, the event has raised over $93,000 in support of JFCS food programs.
“We were astounded at the turnout for our inaugural event,” said Michelle Napell, Executive Director. “The enthusiasm of all the cyclists, from the experienced riders to the young cyclists representing local synagogues, it was a true demonstration of the power of community coming together for a cause.”
The support of 20 sponsors helped jump start the success of the event. Each cyclists who registered then had the opportunity to set up fundraising pages and have their networks donate towards a personal fundraising goal. Fundraisers could also form teams, which proved popular with local riding groups, synagogues, businesses, and even bar & bat mitzvah projects.
“We are thrilled to have set such an exciting precedent and only growing the event in future years,” adds Napell.
See the Wheels for Meals site for full cyclists info and to continue to contribute to the cause.
Crook & Marker | Lisa & Mark Tobias
Bristol Myers Squibb | Susan & Michael Falcon | Firmenich Charitable Foundation | Lennar | Stark & Stark
Elaine & Barry Sussman | Vending Trucks Inc
David Adams | Bank of Princeton | Bob’s Discount Furniture | The Gershen Group LLC | Patty & Adolf Herst
NJM Insurance Group | Orland’s Ewing Memorial Chapel | PJ’s Pancake House | Rick Pollock & Eric Risberg
Clive & Teresa Samuels | Pat & Ray Schlaefer | Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton | Szaferman Lakind
Enjoy select photos from our event and view all in our Facebook Photo Album.
In 2008, Feeding America established Hunger Action Month, recognized during the month of September. As we continue to see the long-term impact of the pandemic, we know those who were already in vulnerable financial positions have been pushed even further.
In Mercer County, 1 in 10 individuals is estimated to be food insecure.
This September, how can you help during Hunger Action Month?
Taking Small Steps for a Big Impact
- On your next trip to the grocery store, pick up a few extra items to donate to your local food pantry. The JFCS food pantry accepts Kosher food items and is always in need of healthy breakfast foods: hot & cold cereal, oatmeal, pancake/waffle mixes
- Make a monetary donation to a local food pantry or food bank. If you want to support the JFCS food pantry and food distribution programs, make a gift on our donation page and include a Note: Hunger Action Month.
- Plant-a-Row – harvest season is here! If you maintain a personal garden, consider donating excess produce to the JFCS pantry. All summer long our food pantry has benefited from donations from personal and community gardens that have allowed us to offer a variety of fresh produce to our clients. Want to know more about what to plant and how to donate? Connect with pantry coordinator Taryn Krietzman, RDN at TarynK@jfcsonline.org.
- JFCS is the Stop & Shop Pennington Bloomin’ 4 Good Partner for September! All month long, for every Bloomin’ for Good bouquet (designated with red sticker) sold, the JFCS pantry receives $1. Support our pantry while spreading joy.
- Volunteer! You and your family or a small group can help pack bags at the JFCS pantry or provide support at a mobile pantry distribution. Connect with our volunteer coordinator, Eden Aaronson at EdenA@jfcsonline.org to learn more.
- Organize a food drive! Whether you’re back to the office, back to school, or still connecting virtually, you can organize a food drive in your community. Learn about how to organize a drive for JFCS by connecting with Eden Aaronson at EdenA@jfcsonline.org.
Go the Extra *MILE*
- Sign up to ride in the 1st Annual JFCS Wheels for Meals bike ride fundraiser on Sunday, October 3! This new fundraiser supports all JFCS food programs – the on-site and mobile food pantries and senior nutrition programs. This event is perfect for serious and not-so-serious riders with multiple route options. Learn more and register to ride at jfcswheels4meals.org!
In mid-July, the JFCS Mobile Food Pantry met an important milestone when the program distributed its 10,000th bag of food in the community.
The Mobile Food Pantry launched in January 2020 and grew quickly, with the initial roll out expedited by the onset of the pandemic. The JFCS Mobile Food Pantry includes two vehicles, the original mobile pantry truck and Poppy’s Pantry, a sprinter van which was purchased through a private gift in memory of Stuart “Poppy” Plotkin.
Both vehicles are out on the road every week and make over 20 distributions each month. Since its launch in early 2020, the mobile pantry program has made over 280 distributions stops across the Greater Mercer region. Distribution locations include a wide network of partners – community housing projects, schools, daycares, churches and a variety of social service organizations.
“When it’s 50 bags to a senior housing complex, 20 bags to a daycare facility, 60 bags to a school, it is incredible to see just how quickly we distributed 10,000 bags benefitting well over 30,000 individuals here in our community,” said Beth Englezos, JFCS Manager of Hunger Prevention.
Both the JFCS brick-and-mortar pantry and both mobile pantries continue to see high demand as the impact of the pandemic continues to be felt by the most vulnerable in the community.
“Our mobile pantry never stopped, even though it was a new program, we saw early on in the pandemic just how vital mobility was in getting food to food insecure individuals and families, now forced to lockdown for their safety,” says Michelle Napell, JFCS Executive Director. “We are prepared to maintain our high level of deliveries and growing to meet demand as we continue to see the financial fallout from the pandemic.”
Upgrades In the Office & On the Road
Through generous grants and the support of the community, JFCS was able to keep the mobile pantries stocked to meet the need.
“We took advantage of having most of our staff working remotely to reconfigure the offices space which houses our brick-and-mortar pantry to accommodate the expanded storage needs in maintaining our mobile program,” adds Napell.
Private grants supported the purchase of new refrigeration and freezers to store fresh and frozen items distributed through both the brick-and-mortar and mobile pantries. The JFCS pantry programs are designed as healthy, choice pantries; while the pandemic has limited the choice option, JFCS remains committed to the healthy pantry model. Taryn Krietzman, JFCS Pantry Coordinator, is also a registered dietitian and informs the selection of products regularly stocked in the pantries. Additionally, Ms. Krietzman will create monthly recipes and resources that are distributed to all pantry clients and made available in both English and Spanish.
When Poppy’s Pantry was added to the mobile pantry fleet, it was designed to be an extra vehicle to transport bags of shelf-stable goods and select produce on short distribution runs. In the spring of 2021, JFCS received funding through Mercer Street Friends Food Bank Center for Nutritional Health and Wellness’ Network Investment Initiative, made possible with help from The Community Food Bank of New Jersey and lead funding from the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund and its partners. With this grant, the agency was able to have the van be converted to a fully refrigerated vehicle. Both vehicles are now able to transport fresh and frozen items at food-safe temperature to any location within the Greater Mercer region.
Preparing for the Next Phase
The JFCS mobile pantry programs continues to grow through a network of partners. The mobile pantry has made two distributions in partnership with the Muslim Center of Greater Princeton’s Hunger Van, which delivers hot meals to distribute to those in need. These distributions have brought the JFCS pantry across the river into Bucks County to churches and locations working with the Hunger Van.
“We know that, unfortunately, there are still so many deeply impact financially from this pandemic, and this impact will be felt for the months and years ahead,” says Napell.
A recent study by Legal Services of New Jersey’s Poverty Research Institute, demonstrated that the “true poverty” level in New Jersey is on average 2.5 times higher than the federal poverty line. The study considered actual cost of living compared to income. According to the study, in Mercer County, the true cost of living is almost 3 times what the federal government defines as the poverty line. In addition, recent data available through the National Low Income Housing Coalition shows that an individual working minimum wage at $12/hour must work 88 hours a week to afford a modest apartment.
“The numbers show just how dire a position people are facing,” said Englezos. “When you think about the true cost of living from housing to daycare expenses to car expenses to utilities, a monthly paycheck is often spent before any groceries are purchased. It’s devastating; devastating to a parent who must make the choice between a bill and a meal, devastating to the family who now face long-term effects on their health and overall well-being, devastating to a community where a significant portion of the population faces this situation day after day.”
Prior to the pandemic, the JFCS brick-and-mortar pantry would allow clients to access the food pantry monthly, by appointment. It has been open 5 days a week since spring 2020, and most clients make weekly visits to keep their households fed. Similarly, the JFCS mobile pantries have several regular distributions each month, sometimes more than once a month, to ensure that their resources are reaching those in need as often as possible.
How to Help
Throughout the month of August and September, JFCS is organizing “Stuff the Truck” events around the community to collect healthy breakfast foods to stock in the pantry. The first “Stuff the Truck” event is held in partnership with Trenton Thunder on Wednesday, August 4 at 6 PM. Community members are welcome to join JFCS at the ballpark and bring a donation item for the food drive. Ticket link and details about upcoming “Stuff the Truck” events can be found at jfcsonline.org/events.
“The first meal of the day truly sets the tone and gives you the positive start needed,” said Taryn Krietzman, RDN, Pantry Coordinator. “We’re hoping we can get the pantry well stocked ahead of the school year so that food insecure children and families can have a nutritious breakfast to count on before they start their day.”
Community members are also encouraged to “Plant-a-Row” for JFCS in their personal or community gardens. Several local individuals and groups, including West Windsor Plainsboro Girl Scout Troops, synagogue and church groups, have been harvesting fresh produce from their gardens to donate to the JFCS pantry. These donations have helped the pantry maintain variety in the produce distributed to clients. Plant-a-Row donations are accepted through the fall; those interested in participating may contact Taryn Krietzman at TarynK@jfcsonline.org.
And on Sunday, October 3, JFCS will be holding the 1st Annual Wheels for Meals bike ride fundraiser. All event proceeds will support JFCS food programs – the on-site and mobile pantry, food distribution services and senior nutrition programs. Find ride details at jfcswheels4meals.org.
Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County (JFCS) will be holding their 1st Annual Wheels for Meals, bike ride to fight hunger, on Sunday morning, October 3, 2021, at Mercer County Community College.
Event proceeds will benefit all JFCS food programs, including their on-site and mobile food pantries and senior nutrition programs. Collectively, JFCS food programs benefit over 30,000 individuals across the greater Mercer region each year.
“During the pandemic, not a single one of our programs stopped, and our food programs saw higher demand than ever,” says Michelle Napell, JFCS Executive Director. “We anticipate that the increase in food insecurity in our community will continue, which is why JFCS is thrilled to launch this new annual fundraiser dedicated entirely to supporting our food programs.”
Individual riders can register for their choice of 32-mile, 10-mile or 3-mile routes, all starting on Mercer County Community College West Windsor Campus. The event also offers multiple levels of sponsorship for businesses or groups looking to create teams and support at a higher level.
Find all event details at www.JFCSWheels4Meals.org.