Tag Archives: Brie Wells

College Opens Innovative Food Pantry in Ewing Township

Editor’s Note: Last winter, The Streetlight reported that a food pantry was in the works for The College of New Jersey. In the time since, the facility has opened its doors.

By Hannah Keyes and Brie Wells

The SHOP @ TCNJ is not the typical shopping destination for most college students, but for many, it provides resources needed to get through the week.

Located at The College of New Jersey’s (TCNJ) Campus Town in Ewing Township, The SHOP is a food pantry that provides resources to those who may be experiencing food insecurity. The SHOP offers many different resources such as canned goods, hygiene products, some clothing items, microwavable meals, bottled water, feminine care products, fruits, grains, and vegetables. The SHOP also offers vegetarian and gluten free products for those who may have other dietary concerns.

It is open not only to college students, but also to faculty and general community members who may be in need. There are no questions asked.

Alana Adams, the College Enhancement Intern for The SHOP, mentioned that “food insecurity impacts nearly 40% of college students nationwide, so there should be no shame associated with utilizing the resources your campus or community provides.”

However, there is often a negative preconceived notion surrounding the use of a food pantry and seeking help.

“We don’t know what you’re going through, but we are here to support you in the best way that we can. We want to have an experience with you. We want to provide a welcoming, comforting, inclusive, and safe environment where you are seen as a person,” emphasized AmeriCorps member and TCNJ Garden and Food Security program assistant Horacio Hernandez.

TCNJ students in Mercer County are the catalysts that brought light to the situation that many members of the community face everyday. The inception of The SHOP began when concerned students asked for referrals or file requests to provide emergency aid to those struggling to eat constantly or to find adequate housing. This need became especially apparent during extended school breaks.

“TCNJ has a Student Emergency Fund, which students can apply and receive limited funding for temporary housing or food. With the help of other organizations, the Dean of Students Office launched the SHOP in February 2019, which serves as a more long-term solution to students in need, where they can receive food and other supplies on a weekly basis,” Adams added.

The building space that The SHOP occupies was offered by the chief of TCNJ’s Campus Police and allowed for everything to officially get started.

In order to support the surrounding communities, The SHOP works in conjunction with Mercer Street Friends Food Bank, TCNJ Student and Academic Affairs, and TCNJ Campus Police. According to the Program Associate of the Adult Hunger Programs at Mercer Street Friends Food Bank, Pamela Sims Jones, “The Food Bank is here to support The SHOP with non-perishable and perishable commodities as needed so that The SHOP can continue to support the TCNJ community members who may be food insecure.”

With the aid of Mercer Street Friends Food Bank and the rest of their partners, The SHOP hopes to be able to provide resources to those who do not have access to food and to help end the stigma surrounding asking for help. In the future The SHOP not only wants to provide basic necessities but to also give additional support for various aspects of life.

Donations and offered help are always accepted and valued by The SHOP. Recently there was a Greek Life food drive competition to see which Greek organization could donate the most food to The SHOP.

There are many additions that The SHOP hopes to add services as time goes on, such as extra training for staff members, more partnerships with other organizations, the ability to provide hot meals, and the list goes on. The SHOP has a lot in store for the future.

Code Blue and You: Staying Sheltered in the Frigid Months

This story is part of The Streetlight’s participation in a statewide climate reporting collaboration by members of the NJ College News Commons, a network of campus media outlets working together to cover the climate crisis in New Jersey.

By Gabrielle Wells

There are over 9,000 people experiencing some form of homelessness on a given day in the state of New Jersey, according to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. Back in 2013, the “Trenton/Mercer 10-year Plan to End Homelessness” was formed in order to prevent even more people from experiencing homelessness and to improve the situation of those who are currently on the streets. This plan was originally created to make a system that would assess needs and help connect individuals experiencing homelessness to housing, among other resources. Now, a new law involving Code Blue will continue to allow many of these individuals to seek shelter during the winter.

In Mercer County, individuals who suffer from housing insecurity may find themselves on the street during severe weather conditions, which can be very hazardous to one’s health. Hypothermia occurs when one’s core body temperature falls below approximately 95°F. This drop-in core body temperature can be a direct result of staying out in temperatures around 30°F to 50°F for extended periods of time, especially in wet conditions.

For Trenton’s population experiencing homelessness, this means that suffering from life-threatening conditions such as hypothermia can pose a serious threat. Dr. Rita King, a professor of microbiology at The College of New Jersey in Ewing Township, explained that when a person is in the cold for a sustained period of time, blood vessels become smaller in order to keep the core of the body and vital organs warmer. This can result in fingers and toes becoming susceptible to frostbite, which can cause gangrene, potentially leading to an amputation of extremities.

“If you’re in sustained cold with constricted blood vessels, your blood pressure can raise which can cause heart attacks,” said King.

New Jersey State Senators Troy Singleton and M. Teresa Ruiz recently created legislation that was signed into law in March 2019, requiring all New Jersey counties to set up homelessness trust funds. These funds would be used to support Code Blue emergency shelter services in order to provide resources and suitable shelter from severe weather conditions.

Code Blue initially was established in May 2017 after legislation was signed into law by Governor Chris Christie in efforts to develop a program that would offer emergency shelter to the population experiencing homelessness in times of inclement weather. According to Mercer County’s Office of Homeless Services’ website, in cases of extreme weather where the temperature drops below 25°F without precipitation, or in the case where it is below 32°F with precipitation with a wind chill of zero degrees for a prolonged period of two hours or more, Code Blue alerts are issued.

However, King feels that Code Blue alerts should be issued during times of other temperatures as well. “I don’t know where they came up with 25°F,” said King, calling such an extreme temperature “flat out freezing.”

This new partisan legislation created by Senators Troy Singleton and M. Teresa Ruiz was passed by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. A spokesperson from Senator Ruiz office could not be reached for comment in time for publication.

Despite the new legislation, some patrons from the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen such as Reggie Montigue and Crystal Hickmond told The Streetlight that they do not have much trouble finding shelter in the winter. “I have already found my spot,” said Montigue.

Once Code Blue alerts are issued, individuals who suffer from housing insecurity in Mercer County can turn to their designated Code Blue shelter, the Rescue Mission of Trenton, which will be open 24 hours once the Code Blue alert is issued. Additionally, people in need of assistance throughout the state of New Jersey can call 211 for shelter information.