Category Archives: News

Campuses Across New Jersey Begin Addressing Food Insecurity

The College of New Jersey’s campus in Ewing Township. Photo by Jared Kofsky/The Streetlight.

By Mariana Acevedo, Jared Kofsky, and Joshua Trifari

A recent report in NPR stated that 36 percent of college students nationwide say they are food insecure while nine percent identify as homeless. The report cited a survey published by Temple University and Wisconsin HOPE Labs that found that in addition, 36 percent of students face housing insecurity. In the fall of 2016, Rutgers University-New Brunswick took the initiative to lighten the burden for students struggling to put food on their dorm room tables.

For a university like Rutgers in nearby Middlesex County, the largest college in New Jersey, it is not surprising that there is a need for the school to provide aid for a population of students facing these crises.

The Rutgers Student Food Pantry (RSFP) is a new operation that is centrally located for students, who are not required to make an appointment to take advantage of the facility’s services. The food pantry offers filling options, such as pasta and rice, with important supplements like protein included. Rutgers students only need to bring their campus ID upon arrival and fill out a brief identification form before being able to take advantage of the food pantry’s services.

“People have an image of what they think a college student is,” Kelli Wilson, Rutgers’ Director of Off-Campus Living and Community Partnerships, told Rutgers Today. “Many college students are working multiple jobs to pay their way while taking classes. A dining plan is probably the easiest thing for them to cut out or cut short on if they are paying their tuition.”

Rising tuition combined with declining financial aid and lingering effects of the recession all increase students’ vulnerability to food insecurity, Wilson said to Rutgers Today.

The Daily Targum reported in September 2018 that $2 million would be donated to extend the services that Rutgers already provides for its students in need, such as food pantries.

In order to increase the accessibility of the pantry, improvements have been suggested to the program, including an extension of hours, particularly on the weekends, for student who spend most of their week in class or at work.

Rutgers University is not the only Garden State institution that has a food pantry. Locally, in Mercer County, Rider University also has a similar resource. According to Rider’s website, the food pantry opened in February of last year.

“The pantry responds to the unmet needs of Rider students, with special consideration for homeless and low-income students and those with food insecurity,” said Ida Tyson, the associate Director of Rider’s Educational Opportunity Program and co-chair for the pantry’s steering committee.

In addition to providing food essentials to students, the pantry also provides toiletries and winter coats.

The other three colleges in the greater Trenton area, The College of New Jersey (TCNJ), Princeton University, and Mercer County Community College, do not yet have a food pantry for students. However, at TCNJ’s Ewing campus, Associate Dean of Students Elizabeth Gallus told The Streetlight that a food pantry is expected to open in the spring of 2019.

Beyond Anyone’s Expectations

By McKenna Samson

Designed with the purpose of assisting all students across the state, especially those who have grown up in and aged out of the foster care system, Beyond Expectations is a New Jersey community multimedia organization for these students. The group’s goal is to teach students marketable skills in film, media, and science–through hands-on film projects–which will enable them to use such skills to obtain a career.

For youth aging out of the foster care system, the possibility of continuing onto a secondary education or finding a profitable career is slim. Children in the foster care system do not always have a stable education or living environment. In fact, “40-63% [of youth in foster care] did not finish high school,” according to Children’s Rights.

This lack of a steady education can hinder the ability of youth to obtain a steady job and income. It is believed that between 25-55% of youth that have aged out of foster care are unemployed, according to Children’s Rights, and those who have found employment have average earnings below the poverty level. Due to circumstances beyond their control, at-risk adolescents in and aging out of foster care are set on a path for disadvantagement.

Leontyne Anglin, the executive director of Beyond Expectations, started as a parent volunteer at the birth of the organization. Seeing the lack of college preparation resources at her teenage daughter’s school events, in 1999, she gathered a group of parents and set out to make opportunities for middle and high school students.

“50 people showing up to the event would make it a big deal. 200 people showed,” Anglin reminisces. As the organization continued, Anglin began to realize that teaching students skills to properly market themselves in professional and secondary education settings would best benefit them.

“One of my favorite aspects of the program is the amount of engagement with the students. The skills they’re taught are hands-on. The staff lets the students make all of the decisions in their projects and fully produce them,” Anglin told The Streetlight.

While Beyond Expectations in open to all students in Burlington and Mercer Counties, foster students are able to find a support system within the organization.

“Foster students are an invisible group,” Anglin explained.

One of the first projects produced by Beyond Expectations, 18 and Out, highlights the stories of youth aging out of foster care. Anglin cites this film as one that has resonated with her for years, even convincing her to take a media approach for students in Beyond Expectations. Even ten years after the short film was made, Anglin references it when providing examples for newer films.

Beyond Expectations is working to reach students all over the Garden State. The organization currently has two office locations–one in Bordentown and one in Trenton. The program works to support students emotionally, socially, and educationally. Beyond Expectations has five key areas for students to explore; media production, service leadership, entrepreneurship, financial literacy, and sports media. These areas allow students to diversify their options and find their key area of expertise. Students are encouraged and guided to create their own film projects, edit, and screen at film festivals.

The success of this media-oriented program can been seen in its results, according to Beyond Expectations, with students from the program being accepted to over two dozen colleges and universities. The organization’s Young Professionals Leadership Initiative helps to build resumes for students, teaching them about job opportunities and ways to market themselves for careers.


Morgan and Morgan: Together Once Again

By Jared Kofsky

In our last issue, we brought you the story of Morgan Wilson, a lifelong Mercer County resident who reunited with his long-lost son outside of the Rescue Mission of Trenton. In the time since the story was written, much has changed. Here is Part II of The Streetlight’s exclusive series, Morgan and Morgan.

“The bond that we have is incredible. I just wish he wasn’t so far away.”

That was how Trenton Area Soup Kitchen patron and lifelong Mercer County resident Morgan Wilson described his relation- ship with his son Morgan West Jackson in an interview with The Streetlight last spring.

After being seperated for 24 years, Wilson and West Jackson reunited after running into each other outside of the Rescue Mission of Trenton. When both men realized that they shared the same first name, they engaged each other in conversation.

“I listened to his story that day and I realized that this was my son,” Wilson explained.

Sure enough, through the assistance of Rose Bernard, his case manager at Oaks Integrated Care, Wilson confirmed that West Jackson was his long lost son, the man he had long hoped to see again following a period of incarceration.

Wilson, West Jackson, and Bernard were not the only people excited about the reunion. Word soon spread throughout Oaks Integrated Care’s Trenton-area offices and eventually to West Jackson’s adoptive brother, Darby, Pennsylvania firefighter Eric West Jackson. His brother told The Streetlight that he was very pleased that West Jackson reunited with his father after so many years apart.

Although the father and son saw each other for the first time in over two decades in New Jersey’s capital city, West Jackson was raised in suburban Philadelphia and later lived in New York and Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Despite being seperated by over 140 miles, Wilson and West Jackson continued to communicate frequently over the phone and over the internet. West Jackson signed his father up for Facebook, and the two strived to stay in contact for the next two years, hoping to regularly see each other in person as frequently as possible.

Now, the two Morgans no longer have to wonder when they will be near each other once again.

In late 2017, West Jackson returned to the city of his birth to live near his father for the first time in 26 years. In addition to residing near each other, both Wilson and West Jackson’s living conditions continue to improve.

Wilson recently passed his driver’s test and received his license. He also moved out of transitional housing and is now renting his own apartment in the suburbs, where he lives with his girlfriend and four-year-old son. Meanwhile, West Jackson is now employed locally and sees his father on a regular basis.

Both Wilson and West Jackson have been through quite a journey since West Jackson was born in the early 1990s, with both men experiencing different kinds of successes and failures.

From Wilson’s experiences in transitional housing to West Jackson’s frequent relocations for employment across the Northeast to their surprise reunion encounter outside of a local shelter, their experiences have each been quite memorable, resulting in plenty of stories for them to share with each other.

Clearly, after a quarter century apart, Morgan and Morgan are grateful to be together in Trenton once again.

Morgan Wilson (left) and Rose Bernard (right) outside of the New Jersey State House. Photo by Jared Kofsky/The Streetlight.

City Brings Groups Together to Address Homelessness

By Jared Kofsky

Janet Kleckley-Porter (left) of the City of Trenton’s CEAS Center and Detective Walter Rivera (right) of the Trenton Police Department. Photos by Jared Kofsky/The Streetlight.

Despite its small size, Trenton is home to a large number of agencies and organizations aiming to address poverty in the capital region.  Yet despite the efforts of these organizations, homelessness continues to impact hundreds of Trentonians.

From senior citizens spending the night inside the Rescue Mission of Trenton to young adults sleeping under bridges, it is clear that there is still a long way to go before every individual experiencing homelessness in the city is housed.

For many years, despite there being a variety of stakeholders in the fight against homelessness in Trenton, representatives from each non-profit, government, and religious organization lacked a place to inform their colleagues of the progress and challenges that they were facing.

However, in the time since the City of Trenton opened its Coordinated Entry and Assessment Services (CEAS) Center at the corner of Perry and Ewing Streets, that is all beginning to change. Every month, CEAS Center Director Janet Kleckley-Porter now hosts a meeting of the CEAS Coordinated Mobile Outreach Team to discuss matters related to unsheltered individuals experiencing homelessness.

Each gathering attracts approximately a dozen officials, representing organizations like SoldierOn, Catholic Charities, and Oaks Integrated Care. During each meeting, every attendee shares how many families the group that they represent were able to find housing for that month, and information is released about upcoming outreach events and housing opportunities in Trenton.

Attendees regularly discuss not only their efforts within city limits, but also how they intend to or are already addressing homelessness in the suburbs. For instance, the Men’s Mission House in Ewing and the regional Point-in-Time Count effort were addressed when The Streetlight attended one of the group’s meetings in December.

Other topics of discussion change based on each gathering. In December, one major subject of concern was a sudden increase of Puerto Rican families experiencing homelessness in the city who came to the mainland United States after being displaced dur- ing Hurricane Maria. Although most of these families were not believed to be unsheltered, representatives discussed how many of them could not afford their own place to stay and were going between the beds and couches of relatives and acquaintances in Trenton. Attendees discussed a need to work with these displaced families in order to provide them with housing of their own to avoid the risk of possibly not having a place to stay at all at some point.

Although homelessness is still a crisis in Trenton and cities all across the country, officials hope that by having this gathering of organizations, their efforts can be maximized and a greater number of individuals can be supported in their journey to finding and securing permanent housing.


City of Trenton CEAS Center
511 Perry Street, Trenton, NJ
(609) 989-3722

Soup Kitchen Expansion: TASK’s Latest Task

By McKenna Samson & Engy Shaaban

The Trenton Area Soup Kitchen on Escher Street. Photos by Jared Kofsky/The Streetlight.

The Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK) has provided services to thousands of those in need for the past 35 years and has become one of the area’s leading nonprofit organizations in the process. In addition to meal services, the kitchen houses an Adult Education Program, an Arts Program, and Case Management Services. In the past five years, TASK has provided over 1.1 million meals and its program services have increased by 30 percent.

TASK relies on the help of volunteers to keep many of these programs running, and only receives three percent of its funding from the federal, county and state resources. The kitchen benefits from donations and the meals are served entirely by volunteers, so it remains largely a community-run effort.

To maximize their efforts, TASK has recently announced that it will be expanding its building and beginning renovations to update already-existing portions to better accommodate its patrons and staff. Executive Director Joyce Campbell spoke of the project’s timeline and explained that although there have been a few “starts
and stops”, the expansion is expected to be done in August and the renovations in September. She noted that TASK will continue to serve meals and provide services during all phases of the project.

The expansion is set to include additional rooms for partner organizations to offer on-site services. In addition to increasing capacity in the dining room, this will also provide a more private
setting for confidential conversations, more space for eye exams and blood pressure readings. A multipurpose room will be built to house TASK’s Adult Education and will also serve the arts programs, allowing them to operate year-round. Four additional computer stations will be added in a private testing and intake area for students. A walk-in refrigerator will be brought in to increase storage for perishable foods. On-site storage for TASK records will be established which will eliminate the cost of off-site storage and allow for these funds to be dedicated elsewhere. And finally, a space for administrative staff to work will be built which will free out office space for direct service staff working with patrons.

Building renovations will allow for an office for the Kitchen Manager to coordinate kitchen operations more effectively and efficiently. It will also move the Patron Services office and enlarge it to address privacy concerns; provide volunteers with space to store their personal items and to change for meal service; and double the space for the storage of personal hygiene and other basic needs supplies. This enlarged space is particularly important as it will accommodate the large number of holiday donations that TASK receives. The renovation will also include a reorganization of the patron computer lab; new, sturdy work surfaces; and proper storage for extra equipment.

The majority of the space will receive a new coating of paint and flooring. Campbell explained the importance of the latter and the impact that these changes will have on TASK employees: “Staff morale begets positive patron service and patron success.”

The expansion will provide 3,679 square feet of additional space dedicated to advancing TASK’s mission of feeding body, mind, and spirit. Campbell told The Streetlight that “the expansion will certainly impact the community very positively.”

“It will allow us to bring in more services. We will have designated spaces for these services and service providers so it will allow for more privacy and efficiency. It will also allow us to provide services during the evening and on weekends; and it will allow outside providers to run programs when the soup kitchen is closed and we are not there. This will all build on our community-centered approach to the work that we do,” Campbell explained.


Trenton Area Soup Kitchen
72 1/2 Escher Street Trenton, NJ
(609) 695-5456

Capital City Farm: Breaking Ground for Trenton

By Josh Tobia & Andrew Nebbia

Capital City Farm in Trenton. Photos by Jared Kofsky/The Streetlight.

There are three supermarkets serving approximately 84,000 Trenton residents, making it difficult to access nutritious, low cost food within city limits.

On the other hand, Trenton has more than 75 bodegas that sell primarily unhealthy meals and a limited supply of fresh produce at a high cost.

This makes it increasingly difficult for city residents to maintain a well-balanced diet.

A study conducted by Rutgers University in 2010 determined that nearly half of children ages 3-18 growing up in Trenton are either overweight or obese, nearly twice the childhood obesity rate in the nation.

Rutgers attributed these statistics to the consumption of too few vegetables and too many high-energy foods.

Capital City Farm, a project of the D&R Greenway Land Trust at 301 North Clinton Avenue in Coalport, works to address this increasingly problematic reality in ways that are sustainable.

Both a profitable business and a model for urban agriculture, the farm is a beneficial addition to the community. Urban farms, like Capital City Farm, grow fresh produce and supply it to local corner stores.

After years of being a food desert, Detroit has used urban agriculture to address rather similar concerns.

The Michigan Urban Farming Initiative transformed unused land into gardens for fresh produce, which expanded businesses, provided jobs, and helped circulate healthy foods across
the city.

Capital City Farm is following a similar trajectory. Kate Mittnach envisioned a farm that would create “a place of beauty that grows food for people that need it.”

It has done exactly that. John S. Watson Jr., Vice President of the D&R Greenway Land Trust, sees the farm as a “green oasis where fresh produce and flowers are grown.”

Watson explained that approximately 30 percent of the greens that they produce are donated to the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK).

According to Watson, the other 70 percent of the food grown on the farm is sold to the Greenwood Avenue Farmers Market and Capital City Farmers Market in Mill Hill Park, and they are actively working to find more places to sell their product.

The farm’s website advertises that plots of land on the property will be available for local citizens to rent out and use for personal gardens

Their mission, however, is to serve and thus, the farm has set up canvases in neighborhoods around the city to learn what residents want grown and supplied.

In addition to serving the local community, Watson explained that one of their goals is to “create a sustainable and replicable agricultural model that can be created in other cities around the state and the nation.”


Capital City Farm
301 North Clinton Avenue, Trenton, NJ
(609) 924-4646

Trenton Free Public Library: Bridging the Digital Divide

By Noah Hasko

The Trenton Free Public Library. Photos by Jared Kofsky/The Streetlight.

The digital divide continues to adversely impact neighborhoods throughout the city of Trenton. A number of organizations are working to address this growing problem and the Trenton Free Public Library (TFPL) is at the forefront of the movement.

The library provides respite to individuals experiencing homelessness in the daytime and access to amenities that they need. Richard Jutkiewicz, the Community Outreach Librarian at the library attested to their ongoing efforts to support city residents.

Jutkiewicz has seen the impacts of the digital divide on individuals pursuing employment opportunities. Many find it difficult to access online applications and other resources for jobs while others enter the field with little understanding of and expertise with technology, making it difficult for them to maintain and grow in their positions.

Jutkiewicz explained this reality as he has seen it: “It has been eyeopening for me to see there are families where the head of household is out of work, and are applying for a job to a company or an organization that only accepts a digital application. They don’t have an email account, or had one but are not sure how to access it.”

With the ongoing efforts of those at local organizations in partnership with public resources such as those at The TFPL, efforts to address the digital divide are far-reaching.

Although the Briggs, Cadwalader, East Trenton, and Skelton Branch Libraries have been closed since 2010, the main branch of the TFPL is open Monday through Thursday from 9:00A.M to 8:00 P.M and Friday and Saturday from 9:00 A.M to 5:00 P.M. The TFPL is free for all to use with the acquisition of a library card and is located at 120 Academy Street. To contact the library, go online at www.trentonlib.org or call (609) 392-7188.


Managing Editor’s Note: The library is often closed during days with extremely high temperatures. Check with the library’s social media platforms if possible before visiting.

Local Summer Camp Offers Education and Entertainment

By Jasmine Green & Némy Thomas

Many parents rely heavily on school hours and after-school activities as a time when their children have somewhere to be safe and cared for. The problem is that most schools run for only nine months a year, leaving many children with working parents with nowhere to go for over eight hours during the remaining three months.

This leaves parents struggling to work and to find adequate and appropriate care for their children. This is where programs such as UrbanPromise Trenton come into play. In addition to running an afterschool program, the organization hosts a summer camp.

The UrbanPromise Summer Camp offers a welcoming and nurturing environment for over 150 children from all over Trenton at several locations. In the West Trenton location, the program takes place for six weeks and the location in East Trenton is offered for eight weeks beginning the week after the fourth of July. Michael Lovaglio, Academic Director of UrbanPromise Trenton, explained that UrbanPromise requires applications for many of its programs and with the limited funding that the organization has, they struggle to accommodate all applicants but try their best to support the greatest number possible. There is also a wait list available to those who do not make it.

UrbanPromise offers fun in the sun but unlike many other camps, it combines these activities with educational enrichment. According to Lovaglio, the camp builds on students’ academic skill sets and knowledge and preserves learning so that students do not experience the dreaded “summer learning loss.”

UrbanPromise not only provides a space for younger children to grow, but they also offer employment opportunities for teenagers in which they can acquire valuable leadership and collaboration skills. Teens can serve as “Street Leaders” in the program and receive a small stipend. UrbanPromise also provides $1,000 to each particpant when they go off to college. The program has a 100 percent high school graduation rate and it teams up with local organization, Mercer Street Friends, to provide nutritious breakfasts and lunches.