Mount Carmel Guild volunteer Favour Bush, left, assists a client with her food selection.
Mount Carmel Guild volunteer Favour Bush, left, assists a client with her food selection.
Yuliza Romirez enjoyed watching her 10-year-old son, Yadieo, pick out a favorite tasty snack, a box of Cheez-It crackers, and reflected, “This program has been good.”

She was referring to Mount Carmel Guild’s Summer Feeding Families project for 2022 which ended mid-August.

The annual project, which the inner-city Trenton Diocesan outreach agency implemented in 2011, is a means to help some 20 families each week acquire supplemental food items during the summer months. Many of the families who use the Guild’s food pantry throughout the year have children attending public schools in the city where free and reduced-cost breakfast and lunch programs are available.

“We recognize that these children are home from school during the summer and this places a strain on the families’ food budgets and their efforts to offer healthy meals,” said Mary Inkrot, executive director. She noted an added perk of the project is that families can select their own groceries rather than receive bags of prepackaged groceries.

During the six-week project, registered families visited the Guild on North Clinton Avenue on a weekday afternoon where they picked up a supply of breakfast and lunch food items that were both healthy and that kids typically enjoy. Families also received all the ingredients for a family meal of meatball subs.

“Summer Feeding Families lessens food insecurity, promotes healthy eating and encourages family members and togetherness,” stressed Inkrot.

Of this year’s project, that began in early July, both Inkrot and Rose Kimball, the Guild’s director of external affairs, acknowledged that the rising cost of food and economic inflation had an impact on its funding. However, with monies the Guild received, such as the $1,500 grant from the Bishop George W. Ahr Endowment Fund and support from the St. Vincent de Paul Conference in St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Yardville, “the program was successful,” Inkrot said.

Reviewing Logistics

Inkrot referred to the USDA definition of food insecure as being one who has difficulty providing, at some time(s) during the year, enough food for all of its members due to a lack of resources. She then noted that the Guild’s food pantry has experienced changes over the years, moving from providing emergency food in temporary situations to being part of a long-term strategy to supplement ongoing shortfalls of food. “Our Community Support program stabilizes households who are food insecure and/or experiencing the threat of homelessness. Due to the high cost of living, our care recipients struggle to maintain basic survival needs – food, clothing, shelter, transportation, medical care and medicine,” she said, noting that most of the Guild’s care recipients are residents of Trenton where the median income is $37,002 and 23.1% live below the Federal Poverty Line. 

Inkrot noted the 2021 Food Insecurity Index, created by Conduent Health Communities Institute, is a measure of food access that is correlated with economic and household hardship with an index of 100 equating to the highest needs. In Mercer County, the greatest need is in Trenton and is indexed at 94.7 for the zip code where Mount Carmel Guild is located.

“Most, if not all, of our care receivers fall under the definition of food insecure households,” she said, and during the summer months “hunger affects children when school is out of session and school breakfast and lunch programs are not readily available.” She added that research indicates that family grocery costs increase by more than $300 a month during the summer months which put further strain on already tight budgets and rising inflation also increased the financial strain this year.

Helping Hands

Kimball also acknowledged that the assistance from “two outstanding students,” volunteer Favour Bush and intern Jah’Siy Fuller, added to the success of this year’s program. Throughout the six weeks, both were responsible for tracking food supplies and restocking shelves for the families who would visit each week.

Noting that her desire to give back to her community had motivated her to spend part of her summer helping out at Mount Carmel Guild, Bush, who is entering the ninth grade in Trenton Catholic Preparatory Academy, Hamilton, and who was an honoree at the Guild’s 2021 Gala, said what she has enjoyed most is learning about the families and hearing their stories. It’s also been a blessing to pick up on different languages from the families, many of whom speak Spanish and Creole.

To find out more about Mount Carmel Guild of Trenton and its mission visit www.MtCarmelGuild.org.