COVID – 19 UPDATES

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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

September is Hunger Action Month – How to Help Food Insecure individuals in Mercer County

September is Hunger Action Month, a time to become educated on food insecurity and gain awareness on how you can help reduce its impact on our community. Although it may not be easily noticeable, food insecurity affects many communities, including Mercer County.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food insecurity as lacking consistent access to the amount of food needed to live a full and healthy life and is the product of both financial difficulty and inaccessibility to proper resources. Food insecurity is not always synonymous with poverty. As of 2017, the food insecurity rate in Mercer County was 10.6%, with 67% of the food insecure individuals being below the poverty threshold for government assistance and 33% not meeting the requirements for welfare benefits (Feeding America, 2018).

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused economic hardship for countless Americans, including those in our community. In Mercer County, the unemployment rate has increased from 3% in June 2019 to 12% in June 2020. In addition, the food insecurity in Mercer County is expected to rise to 13.6%, or over 50,000 people, by the end of 2020.

JFCS has seen the need rising first-hand with monthly visits to the on-site pantry doubling pre-pandemic numbers. Our Kosher Café, a nutrition site for low-income seniors to now receive grab-and-go meals, has seen a steady rate of attendance which is 25% higher than previous months.

How can you take action for Hunger Action Month?

  • Learn more about the JFCS food programs and other local food banks, food pantries, and community resources to understand how they are serving those in need
  • Make a monetary donation to support JFCS
  • Donate food items to the JFCS Pantry
  • Volunteer with JFCS or another local organization working to combat hunger
    • You can help the JFCS pantry by packing bags for our on-site and mobile pantry clients! Interested in learning more? Contact our Volunteer Coordinator, Eden Aaronson at EdenA@jfcsonline.org or 609-987-8100 Ext 113.

If you are hungry, you are welcome.

If you are experiencing financial trouble and are seeking a food pantry near you, the JFCS pantry is open to all in the community who need help. We provide all clients with a supply of non-perishable items as well as fresh produce, cheese and chicken. All our clients also receive copies of the JFCS Pantry Newsletter which shares healthy, budget-friendly recipes centered on pantry staples along with other important information and resources.

We are currently providing pre-packed bags of groceries through no-contact pick up at our food pantry located on Alexander Road, Princeton NJ. You can arrange a pick-up time by calling us at 609-987-8100 Ext 237 or using our online sign up form.

Emmanuelle Farrell, MSW Intern

 

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

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

Feeding America. (2018). Food insecurity in Mercer County. Feeding America.

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.

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.

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.” 

Internships: Adapting Opportunities For a Pandemic

JFCS has always prided itself on providing a variety of internship experiences to high school, college and graduate school students. The ability to offer educational opportunities is an important part of our mission. We were particularly committed to continuing this practice during COVID-19. Through a combination of creativity and flexibility, students are participating, on a modified basis, in the agency’s existing programs and services. As a result, they have gained an additional perspective on how agencies must adapt their programs and respond to client needs during this pandemic. We are so appreciative to have such motivated and dedicated students interning at JFCS this summer.  

Beverly Mishkin, LCSW, Director of Case Management & Senior Services

Meet Samantha!

My name is Samantha Goldfarb, and I am serving as an intern at JFCS this summer as a part of The College of New Jersey’s Summer Community Leaders program.

The summer is only halfway through and I have already recognized personal growth achieved through my new experiences. The COVID-19 pandemic has limited my scope of work, specifically face-to-face interactions with clients; yet, I have still been able to catch glimpses of the great community JFCS serves, from the friendliness of the Kosher Café attendees to the kind and good humored JFCS staff. Moments that have had the greatest impact include the look on our clients’ faces when they receive a bag of food and the excitement of community partners with whom we work to expand our outreach. If our community is this lively and connected now, I can only imagine how wonderful it is without social and spatial restrictions!

Where the altered programming has changed what I originally expected from an internship experience, I have also found it has afforded me unique opportunities I would not have had in a traditional internship placement. For example, I now have the opportunity to provide hands-on service work during a crisis while observing how a model organization can address the growing needs of its clients amid challenge and disorder.

My educational background is on disability rights and advocacy whereas the internship focuses on food security, nevertheless, my goal is to run a non-profit like JFCS one day, and any organization will have to be prepared to withstand any and all disasters that come its way. In this respect this modified internship is teaching me a lot about professional adaptability and how to best address problems as they arise. No organization could have been fully prepared for the demands of the pandemic, but this internship has shown me how a combination of flexible practices and a commitment to problem-solving allows an agency to stay on its feet and keep serving effectively.

I have seen the importance of helping employees connect with one another even if they have to be physically separated. I have seen an agency maintain its scope of service and level of impact by adapting programs to work within new limitations and focusing on building connections with other agencies to pool community resources.

While I regret missing out on some aspects of traditional service, I am very grateful for JFCS for teaching and modeling good practices for my work for years to come – and for still finding ways to sneak in moments with the community that make service so rewarding in the first place.

Samantha Goldfarb, Intern

IN THE NEWS! Kimberly-Clark donates 10,000 rolls of Cottonelle toilet paper to United Way of Greater Mercer County

June 13, 2020

Kimberly-Clark’s Cottonelle donated 10,000 rolls of toilet paper to United Way of Greater Mercer County (UWGMC), part of Cottonelle’s commitment to make sure toilet paper is accessible to the community throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Through partnerships with Mercer Street Friends and Jewish Family and Children’s Service (JFCS), UWGMC was able to move resources into the community. 

Read the full story

Mercer Community Network Makes Essentials Accessible to those in need

June 11, 2020

Kimberly-Clark’s Cottonelle, donated 10,000 rolls of toilet paper to United Way of Greater Mercer County (UWGMC). This is part of Cottonelle’s generous commitment to make sure toilet paper is accessible to the community. 

United Way is also making sure that basic needs are being met in the community. Therefore, the organization reached out to Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County (JFCS) to assist with the distribution of toilet paper. JFCS has been able to provide toilet paper to patrons of its brick-and-mortar, Yvette Sarah Clayman Kosher Food Pantry, and through the JFCS Mobile Food Pantry.  

The partnership ensures that individuals and families in East Windsor, Hightstown, West Windsor, Robbinsville, Trenton, Lawrenceville, and the broader Mercer region have access to toilet paper. 

“Despite the challenges that social service agencies have faced in light of the pandemic, the support and partnership of agencies here in Mercer County has provided a network of resources to those most severely impacted by COVID-19,” said Michelle Napell, JFCS Executive Director. “United Way has been a longtime partner of JFCS and we were grateful that they thought of us to help distribute the toilet paper into the community.”

The Mobile Food Pantry officially hit the road in January 2020, with a planned roll out of one stop per week during the first three months, then increasing to two stops per week through its first year on the road. The coronavirus expedited that timeline and the Mobile Food Pantry has been making 2 – 3 stops per week since mid-March, with demand growing.

The Yvette Sarah Clayman Kosher Food Pantry has steadily seen almost double the usual demand over the past three months.

Collectively, since March 16, over 3,800 individuals have benefitted from the on-site and mobile pantry efforts of JFCS. The on-site pantry serves any within the greater Mercer County area and the Mobile Food Pantry has made stops in Princeton, Lawrenceville, Trenton, Hightstown, East Windsor, West Windsor, Robbinsville, Hamilton, and Ewing. Mobile pantry stops include schools in the East Windsor Regional School District and West Windsor-Plainsboro School District, low-income senior housing, housing developments for individuals with disabilities, and housing developments for low-income families.