Two longtime food pantries join forces to better fight hunger in Mercer County

Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton is partnering with the Mount Carmel Guild to merge food pantries in Trenton, with the joined operations officially set to start on April 1.

Catholic Charities’ Community Services food pantry at 132 N. Warren St. will relocate to the Mount Carmel Guild, located at 73 N. Clinton Ave.

This change will allow Catholic Charities’ food pantry to expand into a larger space, while also sharing facility costs with Mount Carmel Guild, lightening the overall burden of operational costs for both agencies. The Guild’s site also has a parking lot, while the Warren Street food pantry has no off-street parking in a part of Trenton where parking is scarce.

Veteran hunger fighters

Both agencies are stalwarts in the fight against hunger and poverty – Catholic Charities was founded in 1913, while the Trenton bishop formed the Guild in 1920. The Guild (pictured, below right) serves about 550 households a month, while Catholic Charities’ Warren Street pantry serves 325 households a month.

The two agencies bring things to the table that promise to benefit clients of both.

For example, the Guild’s poverty-reduction work focuses on its food pantry, and occasionally utility and prescription assistance, as funding allows. Catholic Charities, on the other hand, offers services in mental health, addiction, housing, domestic violence, trauma recovery, immigration, and more. Under the new partnership, Catholic Charities staff will be on site at the Guild to connect clients of the joint food pantry with wraparound services to address any additional needs they might have.

Catholic Charities also has a more robust collection of clothing and non-food essentials in its food pantry. Catholic Charities’ “Clothing Closet” will continue operating at its Warren Street location, for the time being.

Meanwhile, the Guild receives regular donations from businesses including Trader Joe’s, Wawa, Panera, and Eet Gud bakery of Hamilton that help fill its food pantry shelves. The guild also participates in the federal Commodity Supplemental Food Program for low-income seniors.

Both agencies offer extensive seasonal programs at Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, as well as summer outreach and collections that specifically address food scarcity when children are out of school. These programs will be enhanced by the generosity both agencies receive from the community at these special times of the year.

‘Better together’

And with the assistance of the Trenton-based nonprofit Isles, the Guild recently installed raised garden beds behind its building. So clients of the joint food pantry will enjoy a steady summertime supply of fresh produce.

“We always say: ‘better together,’” said Mary Inkrot, the Guild’s executive director (pictured, left). “We want to have the services without duplicating, and together, expand to meet the needs of the community. And we definitely are happy that we will be connecting our clients with other essential services we don’t currently offer.”

Richard Ferreira, program director of Catholic Charities’ Burlington-Mercer Community Services, agreed: “This joint venture enables us to reduce costs in services where grant funding dollars are only given to purchase food.”

Arnold Valentin, service area director for Catholic Charities’ Community Services (pictured, right), added: “New Jersey is one of the richest states in the country, yet one in 10 residents experience hunger and food insecurity. Children, senior citizens, veterans, college students, and single parents especially struggle. Partnerships like this empower both agencies to better meet their needs, ultimately strengthening the community as a whole.”

The food pantry move will not affect other programs Community Services-Mercer offers; administrative operations and programs including Rapid Rehousing, Senior Case Management Services, and SSI/SSDI Outreach Access and Recovery (SOAR) will remain at 132 N. Warren St., where they’ll have room for expansion with the food pantry relocated.

To get or give help

To reach the joint food pantry or to volunteer there (beginning April 1), call the Guild at (609) 392-5159. To volunteer for Catholic Charities’ Community Services, call (609) 394-8847 in Mercer County. Food donations will be accepted at Mount Carmel Guild from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. weekdays.

For more information: Dana DiFilippo, communications, ddifilippo@cctrenton.org or (609) 394-5181, ext. 1153.

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