Food is at the heart of what we do at TASK.
But serving thousands of meals in and around Trenton is no easy job. So, as the saying goes, it takes a village, and at TASK our partnerships with local agencies and community organizations are vital to carrying out our commitment to provide meals to anyone who is hungry.
Without our partners, we could not do what we do. That is certainly true of the satellite locations that work with TASK to provide meals to people close to where they live in Mercer and Burlington counties. In 2003, TASK launched its first partnership meal service with the First Baptist Church of Trenton on the city’s south side, commencing the first of many collaborations that would enable the soup kitchen to feed more people. Back then, TASK was serving nearly 200,000 meals, and had served a total of 2 million meals since opening its doors almost 40 years ago. In 2011, TASK took steps to address hunger and food insecurity beyond the city’s borders, setting up its first satellite location outside the city at the First United Methodist Church of Hightstown. Whether they have been part of the TASK family for two decades or just one year – we wanted to take a moment to celebrate our satellite partners and acknowledge their dedication to the TASK mission to feed the hungry.
“We are so grateful for the work done by our teams in an around Trenton,” said TASK Kitchen and Facilities Manager Paul Jensen who oversees the soup kitchen’s meal service program. “When we took that big step outside the city, it confirmed what we already knew – hunger was everywhere and there was no turning back. Those early years helped lay the groundwork for managing future partnerships and positioned TASK to widen its footprint into communities that expressed a need.”
Although some locations are temporarily closed due to precautions taken to help stem the spread of COVID-19, typically TASK delivers hot, nutritious meals prepared at the Escher Street kitchen to 16 satellite partners. The meals – lunches and/or dinners – are then delivered to partners in Hamilton, Princeton, Hightstown, various Trenton neighborhoods and Bordentown in Burlington County. The organizations provide a place to eat, volunteers to serve the food and a valuable service to their surrounding communities.
Holy Apostles’ Episcopal Church in Hamilton Township’s Yardville section has been working with TASK for five years. Part of Gleanings – the church’s outreach program, the meal service was originally intended to service the migrant farm workers laboring on the farms that surround the church, according to Lynda Dickson, church member and volunteer who wears many hats. In addition to her many duties, Dickson serves as a greeter at the church’s weekly meal service. It turned out that the farm employing the workers had its own kitchen. But the church’s efforts did not go to waste; senior citizens and other groups in the area began to come for meals, Dickson said. Currently, about 30 people come out every week, but, she added, much more are being fed.
“Many of our folks take several meals to go for people who cannot get out of the house,” Dickson said. “So, we are feeding far more than those who comes here.”
Susan, a patron who said she is a nurse at a local hospital, was picking up meals this week at the church. She didn’t want to give her last name, but she did share that she is a church member and has been coming for meals for at least five years.
“TASK is a godsend,” Susan said after placing a few neatly sealed dinners of Salisbury steak, succotash and mash potatoes in the trunk of her car. “The food is good, and it helps us financially.”
Dickson said in addition to food, the meal service is an outlet – a way of making people feel part of their community. When the program first started, the church tried to set up a rotating schedule for volunteers to serve the Tuesday evening meals. The schedule, however, soon fell by the wayside, because no one wanted to miss a meal service.
“Without TASK there would be no Gleanings program,” Dickson said. “They give us the food, the supplies we need, and the whole congregation is really involved in it. We have one man who is a guest. He used to come with his wife, but she passed away last year. He still comes and he always comes with something to add to the meal – so this service also fosters socialization. We are really doing a service to the community, and I have to say, it’s certainly one of the best things I’ve ever done.”
To date, TASK has served more than 4 million meals with the help of our satellite partners. As food insecurity and hunger continue to grow in the region, Jensen said TASK is always looking for new partners to help the soup kitchen expand into other communities in need.
If your organization is interested in joining the TASK team of satellite partners, contact Paul Jensen at (609) 695-5456 EXT. 111.