Planting the Seeds: Encouraging a Stronger Relationship & Ownership over Food Resources

Through two recent donations, JFCS is growing a program within our food pantry to encourage and empower clients to grow their own food. Recently, the agency was able to provide tomato plant seedlings to clients. JFCS agency has a relationship with Abe’s Acres Farm, located in Hightstown, where agency staff bring specific cardboard waste – collected through regular, large-scale food deliveries to the pantry – to the farm which is turned into composting material. In early May, when dropping off cardboard, Abe’s Acres provided 200 tomato plant seedlings for JFCS to share with pantry clients.

Through an ongoing partnership with ONEProject, a Robbinsville-based organization, JFCS also received a donation of 250 painted planters and more seeds to provide our clients with additional resources.

Why encourage clients to grow their own food?

Our clients are food insecure and low-income. One of the most basic advantages of growing one’s own produce is that it allows more, nutritious food to get onto the tables while saving money.

Food pantries face significant challenges in acquiring perishable foods, especially produce, even when they have the means to keep these items stocked. The JFCS pantry houses multiple full-sized refrigerators and freezers as well as having refrigeration and freezer storage available on both mobile food pantry vehicles. Despite this, even our agency faces challenges when trying to keep fresh items stocked in the volume needed to service all our clients through both the on-site and mobile food pantries. By providing resources directly to clients, we can circumvent many of those challenges and allow the client to have food from the freshest and most primary source – the plant!

The Importance of Access to Fresh Produce

In a 2019 study by the CDC, 85% of food pantry clients said it was important to have fresh fruits and vegetables, but only 52% said these were always available. Food pantry clients’ fruit and vegetable consumption falls short of recommendations. In the same CDC study, about two-thirds of food pantry clients had a household member with a diet-related chronic disease. Poor nutrition can lead to increased risk for developing diet-related health conditions.

JFCS prides itself on being a healthy, choice-pantry, but there is always room to improve. By encouraging donations from community members through their own gardens and giving our clients the tools to grow their own food, we are taking our healthy, choice-pantry to the next level.

More than Fruits & Veggies

The ONE Project donation included cilantro seeds. Herbs and spices are often overlooked as donations to food pantries but are essential for clients to secure their cultural foodways. By giving a planter or seed to grow an herb, our clients can choose what they want to grow beyond anything provided through our pantry.

How Can You Help?

JFCS is tying into the national Plant-a-Row initiative which encourages individuals to plant items in their personal or communal gardens for the specific purpose of harvesting to donate to local food pantries.

The JFCS food pantry will accept donations from local gardens to be provided to our clients. In years past, the JFCS pantry has been able to accept limited donations of fresh produce but now with the mobile food pantry going out 3-5 times per week, there is significantly increased demand for a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. The on-site food pantry also continues to see high use, with 80-100 visits per month.

If you have questions about donating from your personal or community garden, reach out to Taryn Krietzman at TarynK@jfcsonline.org. For those outside of the Mercer County region, individuals can utilize the pantry finder on AmpleHarvest.com to locate a local food pantry accepting donations from personal or community gardens.

Taryn Krietzman, RDN

JFCS Pantry Welcomes Donations from Individual & Community Gardens

May 11, 2021

Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County (JFCS) is asking the community to help keep the agency pantry stocked with fresh produce throughout the spring and summer by harvesting from their very own gardens.

In years past, the JFCS pantry has been able to accept limited donations of fresh produce but now with the mobile food pantry going out 3-5 times per week, there is significantly increased demand for a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. The on-site food pantry also continues to see high use, with 80-100 visits per month.

“We always appreciate the donations from local individuals or even community gardens as it provides variety to the produce we usually offer,” said Beth Englezos, JFCS Manager of Hunger Prevention. “While we are able to store and distribute fresh and frozen produce from our regular food providers, there is something extra special about being able to give out locally grown, fresh from the garden items to our clients.”

JFCS is tying into the national Plant-a-Row initiative which encourages individuals to plant items in their personal or communal gardens for the specific purpose of harvesting to donate to local food pantries.

In addition to encouraging local gardeners to contribute to the food pantry, JFCS is also working to provide clients the tools to grow their own produce as well. Recently, the agency was able to provide tomato plant seedlings to clients. JFCS agency has a relationship with Abe’s Acres Farm, located in Hightstown, where agency staff bring specific cardboard waste – collected through regular, large-scale food deliveries to the pantry – to the farm which is turned into composting material. In early May, when dropping off cardboard, Abe’s Acres provided 200 tomato plant seedlings for JFCS to share with pantry clients.

Taryn Krietzman, RDN, JFCS Pantry Coordinator created easy to follow care instructions to provide along with the plant to pantry clients.

“Clients coming to our food pantry are food insecure and low-income. Growing one’s own produce is a simple way to get more food into the refrigerator and to save money,” says Krietzman.

Through an ongoing partnership with ONEProject, a Robbinsville-based organization, JFCS received a donation of 250 painted planters and cilantro seeds to provide our clients with additional resources.

“Food pantries are at the end of human-food production chain, making it difficult to acquire perishable foods such as fresh produce. By providing these resources directly to our clients, we can circumvent many of those challenges allow the client to have the freshest source of produce, right in their home,” added Krietzman.

If you have questions about donating from your personal or community garden, reach out to Taryn Krietzman at TarynK@jfcsonline.org. For those outside of the Mercer County region, individuals can utilize the pantry finder on AmpleHarvest.com to locate a local food pantry accepting donations from personal or community gardens.

Delivering Healing in a Whole New Way: Mobile Food Pantry Helps Pave Path for Vaccine Distribution to Vulnerable Populations

UPDATE: April 29, 2021

JFCS and RWJ Hamilton went out to a second location for their vaccine distribution partnership, this time at Paul Robeson Charter School in Trenton. The school’s Panther Pantry is a regular distribution stop for the JFCS Mobile Food Pantry and the established relationship between the agency and the school helped ensure a successful vaccine distribution.

The faculty was incredibly helpful at spreading the word to their school community as well as surrounding neighborhood. Over 40 individuals, representing parents of students and local community residents, received their first Moderna vaccine dose. JFCS and RWJ Hamilton will return to administer the second dose after the 4 week period.

“We were very proud to have been a part of this initiative with RWJ and help make the connections to neighborhoods that had been unable to easily access vaccines,” said Michelle Napell. “Overall, every individual who receives a vaccine benefits our entire community, and we are happy to have been able to help reach these groups.”

April 12, 2021

Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County (JFCS) partnered with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton (RWJ Hamilton) to bring vaccines directly into neighborhoods with the most vulnerable populations and fewest resources to access available vaccine options.

On March 19, The JFCS Mobile Food Pantry went out along with a RWJ Hamilton mobile vaccine team to Architects Housing in Trenton, a senior low-income housing apartment, for a pilot run of this new partnership where they provided the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine to 65 individuals. The joint team returned on April 9 to administer the second dose of the vaccine.

“As the vaccine started to roll out, I considered how we might be able to utilize our Mobile Food Pantry, which has built in refrigeration and freezer units, to help distribute the vaccine to individuals who were having trouble accessing available sites,” said Michelle Napell, JFCS Executive Director. “We approached RWJ Hamilton as we’ve partnered with them in the past for successful programs and knew they could be the resource for vaccine distributions.”

While RWJ Hamilton handles the transport of the vaccine by its own team, the JFCS Mobile Food Pantry has an important presence the day of vaccinations. The mobile pantry arrives along with the RWJ team and JFCS staff helped organize the vaccination process, assisted those receiving vaccines, and distributed breakfast bags to recipients.

“Architects Housing has become a regular distribution site for our mobile pantry,” says Beth Englezos, JFCS Manager of Hunger Prevention. “We first connected with their site in June 2020 and have since made monthly, sometimes even bi-monthly stops, as needed by their residents.”

“The presence of our mobile pantry, a trusted, welcome resource to the Architects Housing residents, was really important on the day of vaccinations,” added Napell. “We continue to see in the news how low-income populations, especially older adults, are hitting every obstacle to accessing vaccines – from not having internet access to sign up, to lacking transportation to vaccine sites, to being missed by communications coming from state and local levels about vaccine safety and availability. The presence of our pantry and our team, a familiar and reliable resource, helped make the vaccine experience as easy as possible for the recipients.”

JFCS and RWJ Hamilton are discussing other locations where they can replicate the vaccine and mobile pantry partnership at other locations.

“We have partnerships with many organizations, institutions, and housing developments that work with those who currently quality for vaccine but lack the resources to get connected with sites. We hope our connections can be an in-road to RWJ Hamilton reaching these individuals,” said Napell.

Asian-Style Rice Bowl with Fish Sticks

Play around with your favorite flavors and textures to make a personalized rice bowl you love!

 

 

Ingredients & Instructions
  • Fish sticks (~3 per person)
  • Rice (white or brown)
  • Seasoned Rice Vinegar (apple cider vinegar or lemon juice are okay too)
  • Carrots, Cucumber, Cabbage, Radishes (or any other crunchy vegetables you like)
  • Ginger Dressing
  • Optional Additions: Sliced Avocado, Diced Mango, Soybeans, Chopped Scallion, Spicy Mayo, Sesame Seeds, Soft-Boiled Egg, Etc.

Instructions:

  1. Prepare rice as usual
  2. While the rice is cooking, shred/matchstick your crunchy vegetables and prepare the fish sticks according to package directions.
  3. Once the fish has cooled enough to handle, cut into bite-sized pieces. Place into a medium bowl and dress with a 2-3 teaspoons of ginger dressing. Toss to mix.
  4. Once the rice is finished cooking, fluff it with a fork and slowly mix in 2-3 TBSP of rice vinegar. Add more or less to your preference.
  5. To assemble, place 1/2 Cup of rice into a bowl. And fish and vegetables. Dress with personalized garnishes.
  6. Enjoy warm or cold!

BONUS! Optional: Spicy Mayo

  • ½ cup mayo
  • 1 Tbsp Sriracha
  • 1 tsp rice or apple cider vinegar
  • 1/8 tsp sesame oil

Whisk together and store in refrigerator.

Ingredientes & Instrucciones

¡Juega con tus sabores y texturas favoritos para hacer un tazón de arroz personalizado que te encanta!

  • Palitos de pescado (~ 3 por persona)
  • Arroz (blanco o integral)
  • Vinagre de arroz condimentado (vinagre de sidra de manzana o jugo de limón también están bien)
  • Zanahorias, pepino, repollo, rábanos (o cualquier  verdura crujiente que le guste)
  • Aderezo de jengibre
  • Adiciones opcionales: rodajas de aguacate, cubitos de mango, cebolleta picada, mayonesa picante, semillas de sésamo, huevo pasado por agua, etc.

Instrucciones:

  1. Prepare el arroz como de costumbre.
  2. Mientras se cocina el arroz, triture o pegue las verduras crujientes y prepare los palitos de pescado de acuerdo con las instrucciones del paquete.
  3. Una vez que el pescado se haya enfriado lo suficiente como para manipularlo, córtelo en trozos pequeños. Coloque en un tazón mediano y aliñe con 2-3 cucharaditas de aderezo de jengibre. Mezcle.
  4. Una vez que el arroz haya terminado de cocinarse, revuélvalo con un tenedor y mezcle lentamente
    2-3 cucharadas de vinagre de arroz. Agregue más o menos, a su preferencia.
  5. Coloque 1/2 taza de arroz en un tazón. Agregue su pescado y verduras encima en secciones separadas. Vístase con sus aderezos personalizados en la parte superior
  6. ¡Disfrute caliente o frío!

Opcional: Mayonesa Picante

  • 1/2 taza de mayonesa 
  • 1 cucharada de sriracha 
  • 1 cucharadita de vinagre de sidra de arroz o de manzana 
  • 1/8 cucharadita de aceite de sésamo

Batir y guardar en el refrigerador.

Breaded fish sticks don’t conjure an image of “health,”, but there are positives to seafood consumption despite the means.

  • The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 recommends eating a variety of animal and plant protein foods. The recommendation for seafood is about 8oz weekly. However, fish and shellfish intake among Americans is only an average of 2.7oz per week.

    The FDA recommends choosing fish that are lower in mercury. Fish sticks typically are made from whitefish such as cod, pollock, haddock or hake. These fish are all considered “Best Choices” (by the FDA) for avoiding mercury. This is especially important for young children.

  • Seafood provides important nutrients such as: Protein, Healthy omega-3 fats (DHA and EPA), vitamin B12 and vitamin D, Iron, selenium, zinc, and iodine.
  • Introducing seafood early may lead to greater food acceptance of seafoods into adulthood.

Los palitos de pescado empanizados no evocan una imagen de “salud”, pero el consumo de mariscos tiene aspectos positivos a pesar de los medios.

  • Los lineamientos dieteticos para Americanos 2020-2025 recomienda comer una variedad de alimentos con proteínas animales y vegetales. La recomendación de mariscos es de aproximadamente 8 oz por semana. Sin embargo, la ingesta de pescado y mariscos entre los estadounidenses es solo un promedio de 2.7 oz por semana.
  • La FDA recomienda elegir pescados con bajo contenido de mercurio. Los palitos de pescado suelen estar hechos de pescado blanco como el bacalao, el abadejo, el eglefino o la merluza. Todos estos pescados son considerados “Mejores opciones” (por la FDA) para evitar el mercurio. Esto es especialmente importante para los niños pequeños.
  • Los mariscos proporcionan nutrientes importantes como: proteínas, grasas omega-3 saludables (DHA y EPA), vitamina B12 y vitamina D, hierro, selenio, zinc y yodo.
  • La introducción temprana de mariscos puede conducir a una mayor aceptación de los mariscos en la edad adulta.

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!

Toaster Oven Muffins

Make muffins without the oven! Try this healthy breakfast or snack that’s easy to take on-the-go!

Ingredients & Instructions
  • 1/3 cup Milk
  • 1/2 cup Oats
  • 1/2 cup Flour
  • 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/4 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 1 Egg
  • 3 TBSP Plain Yogurt
  • 2 TBSP Oil
  • 2 TBSP Honey
  • 1/3 cup Raisins

Instructions:

  1. Combine the oats and milk and let sit ~20 min to absorb.
  2. Preheat toaster oven to 375°F. Spray a 6-cup muffin tin with cooking oil (make sure it fits in your toaster).
  3. In another bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and raisins.
  4. Add egg, yogurt, oil, and honey to the oat mixture then stir to combine.
  5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients & stir
  6. Divide batter evenly among the muffin cups and bake ~12 minutes or until golden.
Ingredientes & Instrucciones

¡Prepara magdalenas sin horno! ¡Pruebe este desayuno o refrigerio saludable que es fácil de tomar para llevar!

  • 1/3 taza de leche
  • 1/2 taza de avena
  • 1/2 taza de harina
  • 1/4 cucharadita de bicarbonato de sodio
  • 1/2 cucharadita de polvo de hornear
  • 1 cucharadita de canela
  • 1/4 cucharadita de sal
  • 1 huevo
  • 2 cucharadas de aceite
  • 2 cucharadas de miel
  • 3 cucharadas de yogur natural
  • 1/3 taza de pasas

Instrucciones:

  1.  Combine la avena y la leche y deje reposar ~ 20 minutos para absorbar.
  2. Precaliente el horno tostador a 375 ° F. Rocíe un molde para muffins de 6 tazas con aceite de cocina (asegúrese de que quepa en su tostadora).
  3. En otro bol, mezcle la harina, el polvo de hornear, el bicarbonato de sodio, la sal, la canela y las pasas.
  4. Agregue huevo, yogur, aceite y miel a la mezcla de avena y luego revuelva para combinar.
  5. Agregue los ingredientes húmedos a los ingredientes secos y revuelva
  6. Divida la masa uniformemente entre los moldes para muffins y hornee ~ 12 minutos o hasta que esté dorado.