Collaborating with Rolling Harvest Food Rescue to Boost Meal Production at TASK
Since suspending the use of its main dining room, TASK has provided more than 8,000 meals each week –a 70% meal increase from the prior year.
To help curtail the spread of COVID-19, in the beginning of March, TASK closed its dining room and started to cook, package and serve meals to-go from the front doors of building on Escher Street in Trenton.
While the sudden change in our meal service has challenged TASK’s already flexible staff to adopt a new meal strategy and increase production, one thing during the pandemic has stayed the same for our kitchen – the important role of partnership and collaboration.
Since suspending the use of its main dining room, TASK has provided more than 1,700 meals each day to hungry children, adults and seniors across the Trenton area. That’s more than 8,000 meals each week – a 70% meal increase from the prior year.
When asked how TASK’s small, yet incredibly efficient kitchen team has managed to keep up with the crawling demand for food in Trenton, Kitchen and Facilities Manager, Paul Jensen, is reluctant to take full credit. He profusely commends the compassionate corps of supporters who have generously donated money, food and other essential items to help TASK’s meal service stay afloat amid the current COVID-19 crisis.
“At the start of the pandemic we met with the City of Trenton, local schools and several other organizations on the front lines to ensure no one goes without food,” said Paul. “As the crisis evolved, so did the group and the way we tackled common problems… new organizations emerged, more individuals we’re stepping up to the plate to help, existing partnerships we’re strengthened and that’s the type of action and collaboration we need to meet the growing demand for food in this area.”
Among those many food partners is Rolling Harvest, a Southeastern Pennsylvania-based nonprofit that “rescues” fresh produce from local farms and other food producers and re-distributes it to a roster of about 60 hunger relief organizations in Montgomery and Bucks County, PA, as well as Hunterdon and Mercer County, NJ.
While TASK has partnered with Rolling Harvest Food Rescue for years, their network of partnerships has recently gifted TASK with more than 10,000 lbs. of food in the last two months. Their last donation included nearly 3700 pounds of organic beef – enough food for 15,000 burger patties – along with a load of eggs, cabbage, onions, mushrooms, carrots and other nutritious herbage that will be served to patrons in lieu of the selection of fresh produce typically put out on the recently assembled salad bar.
“With the volume of meals TASK is putting out in our community, partnerships like these are extremely valuable because not only does it save us time and money, it also provides the kitchen with more flexibility to respond to those who have fallen on hard times and are turning to local soup kitchens and food pantries for the first time.”
This delivery is just one of many that TASK has been glad to receive over the past several weeks. Other in-kind donations have included gallons of milk, freshly prepared sandwiches from nearby restaurants and other pre-packaged items that patrons have been able to take home along with TASK’s meals.
“When it comes to our kitchen budget, we don’t create separate line items for different types of food, especially raw meat. This beef will be rotated into our menu over the next few months and will help offset the cost of our proteins which may become more expensive soon”, Paul added.
Now that new social-distancing regulations are being extended into June, it is hard to be sure when the burgeoning need for TASK meals will taper off. However, with the help our loyal donors, volunteers and community partners, we remain confident that we will continue to meet the need of hungry families in Mercer County, in true TASK fashion.