Tag Archives: Hannah Keyes

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.

Here to Help: Mercer Street Friends

By Hannah Keyes

The Mercer Street Friends Food Bank for Nutritional Health and Wellness is one of six food banks in the state of New Jersey. Established in 1987, the Food Bank secures and distributes food and provides related nutrition assistance to help ensure that citizens do not go hungry.

According to the Program Associate of Adult Hunger, Pamela Sims Jones, The Food Bank distributes USDA, state-purchased, and donated commodities to 48 member agencies within Mercer County. The 21 mobile pantry sites receive donated perishable and non- perishable items, and the 13 senior citizen housing sites receive designated USDA non-perishable commodities for the 520 Commodity Supplemental Food Program participants. Mercer Street Friends member agencies include a network of pantries, shelters, youth programs and the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK) and their sites.

“Mercer Street Friends is 61 years old and the Food Bank is 31 years old. With a staff of 9 and over 2,400 volunteers a year, the Food Bank distributes more than 4 million pounds of food a year,” stated Sims Jones.

Within this food distribution, the Food Bank has multiple programs seeking to help reduce hunger, such as “Send Hunger Packing,” a program that partners with local public schools and provides healthy kid-friendly food on Fridays for children who are at-risk for suffering from hunger so they can have meals to eat over the weekend. The Food Bank also provides breakfast and lunch for children facing meal gaps during the summer when they cannot get food from school. Additionally, there is a mobile pantry that delivers monthly meal boxes to around 200 low-income seniors.

Care Available for Pregnant Women Experiencing Homelessness

By Hannah Keyes

The Catholic Charities Diocese of Trenton facility on North Warren Street in Downtown Trenton. Photo by Jared Kofsky/The Streetlight.

The opioid epidemic has been reaching astronomical levels, as it has been categorized as one of the worst drug crises in the United States to date. According to the Trenton Health Team, a collaborative program that addresses health care in Trenton, “New Jersey continues to be a national leader when it comes to opioid addiction – both in the scope of the impact on the state, and in the public and private response to the disease. More than 1,600 state residents died of opioid related issues in 2016.”

Within this population of drug addicted individuals, pregnant women have not received much attention or care due to a lack of coordination between maternal health and addiction medicine. However, there are now programs that are desperately trying to fight this.

In January 2018, Capital Health, Catholic Charities Diocese of Trenton (CCDoT), the Trenton Health Team, the Rescue Mission of Trenton, Henry J. Austin Health Center, and HomeFront introduced a new program called For My Baby and Me (FMBM) that focuses on addressing the needs of addicted pregnant women who are homeless or at risk for homelessness.

The women who are enrolled in FMBM receive plenty of care throughout their stay. Clients receive medical care through all stages of pregnancy, birth and postpartum, medication-assisted addiction treatment, peer recovery and relapse prevention counseling and support, mental health services, housing assistance, transportation, employment services, basic needs such as food and clothing, and child care for dependents. Susan Lougherty, the Director of Operations for CCDoT, mentioned that the program is open to anyone, regardless of their insurance status and operates all twenty-four hours of the day.

After receiving a two-year $4 million grant, CCDoT was able to expand its Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) program in underrepresented areas of Mercer and Burlington Counties. With this significant funding, the agency plans to extend its outreach to those who need it the most, specifically certain populations of people who have repeatedly been denied the help that they need. Not enough recovery programs accept pregnant women due to the complex and specialized care that they require, which can lead to women becoming fearful and unwilling to seek help.

While there are similar programs such as Mother Child in Camden County that assists pregnant women experiencing homelessness, FMBM is unique in its approach since it explicitly aims to help pregnant women overcome their drug addiction in order to become healthy for both themselves and their babies.

FMBM uses a holistic partner approach that allows pregnant women to get the best treatment possible. For example, HomeFront provides shelter and housing, CCDoT provides substance abuse treatment and has the lead on case management, and Rescue Mission answers the 24/7 hotline and provides peer support. Different services are provided by different partners, which makes it a collective effort for a common cause.

“The program [FMBM] is able to achieve results through the holistic partner approach. Each community partner brings strength to this model through their expertise in their specific area and their ability to rapidly scale to meet the individualized needs of all of those we are serving through this system,” Lougherty stated.

FMBM began as a collaboration of healthcare and social service providers in the Trenton area. Doctors at Capital Health recognized that the attention and treatment of the population of pregnant women was being lost. FMBM was able to provide support to Capital Health in their initiative to reduce instances of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). The efforts on both ends have produced positive impacts on many pregnant women’s lives.

To date, there have been nearly 40 pregnant women who have gone through the program, including Sabrina who was able to quit her addictive drug habits and give birth to a healthy child.

“I totally hit rock bottom before I came here. I was really scared once I found out I was pregnant again, especially since I found out so late,” Sabrina explained.

She discovered that she was having a baby 23 weeks into her pregnancy. Before coming to FMBM, she stated that she experienced a lot of judgment from nurses and doctors at some hospitals. However, Sabrina was referred to FMBM and although she was at first skeptical due to it being so different from a generic rehab center, she believes it has saved her life.

“My quality of life has improved tremendously. The program is just great. The nurses here are awesome and very supportive. Without everyone’s support here and my family, I couldn’t have done all of this,” stated Sabrina.

The women who go through the program have to work extremely hard to recover. At FMBM they receive a tremendous amount of support to help get them to a healthy state of mind and being.

In regards to the women who have successfully completed the program, nursing supervisor at CCDoT for FMBM, Lisa Merritt mentioned that “it’s definitely really rewarding for all of the treatment team because we want to set them up for success so that they can sustain the home that we put them in, or the job that they get at the end of the treatment here. You see them slowly grow, even in their appearance one month later, three months later, six months later. Everything improves: appearance, health, and motivation.”


For My Baby and Me

(609) 256-7801

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