Tag Archives: Trenton Area Soup Kitchen

Trenton Area Soup Kitchen Expands

By Joshua Trifari

The new wing of the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen. Photo by Jared Kofsky/The Streetlight.

An air of excitement looms over the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK). The many noises that accompany construction provide a backdrop to the daily business of the soup kitchen and oftentimes interrupts tutoring and meal service. The 3,400 square foot expansion was expected to be completed by the beginning of the winter.

There are some disappointments, as some eager staff harp lightly about their parking spaces being displaced. Overall, however, patrons and employees alike are excited for these new changes, just in time for the festivity of the holiday season.

“I am very excited,” said Phyllis Blassingame, a longtime patron of the soup kitchen. She participates in the adult GED program and also volunteers, helping with meal service. “I am looking forward to having a classroom where we can learn.”

Dennis, another patron who is friends with Blassingame, expressed a similar sentiment. “I am just looking forward to having more space,” he told The Streetlight.

However, the path to expansion wasn’t necessarily easy.

“We thought we were going to renovate before we expanded,” said Melissa Rivera, TASK’s Manager of Internal Operations.

Now, renovations will take place after expansion. According to Rivera, most of the operations will be transferred into the new building while renovations will be taking place in the original building.

The expansion will help improve many of the programs that the soup kitchen already offers. Classrooms will be added, along with a computer lab and a testing center, all of which are expected to greatly improve the adult education program, though no new programs are currently slated to be added, according to Rivera.

Reed Gusciora, Trenton’s new mayor, toured the construction site in November.

“They’ll have the capacity to serve more of the homeless population in the near future,” Gusciora told The Streetlight.

The expansion comes at a time when the latest Point-In-Time Count of people experiencing homelessness in New Jersey concluded that homelessness increased between 2017 and 2018.

TASK has been at its Escher Street location since 1991. Since then, it has served over a million meals, whilst simultaneously offering programs that are designed to improve the quality of life of its patrons.

“I’m optimistic that the expansion will increase our capacity to serve the community,” Rivera said.

A grand opening celebration has been scheduled for May 3, 2019.

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