By Mary Stadnyk | Associate Editor
Because finances are tight, it is difficult for Tina to make ends meet, and she is often unable to provide enough food for her three children.
“The paycheck is not enough,” says Tina, who is grateful for the assistance she receives from the Mercer County Catholic Youth Organization Bromley Center’s food pantry. “We come here, and they give you what you want. That is how amazing this program is … and I appreciate it.”
Tina’s story is one of many recounted in a recently released video produced by the United Way of Greater Mercer County that highlights how community organizations work together to reach a common goal – namely, to feed the hungry.
The video highlights the county United Way’s Strike Out Hunger initiative, which brought more than 500 nonprofits and volunteers together in June to Trenton’s CURE Insurance Arena, where more than 180,000 meals were packaged for people in need. The campaign assists families who cannot obtain enough food, especially during the summer months.
“Summer is a tough time, especially if the children aren’t in camp programs. This partially replaces the school lunch program, which many parents rely on for 10 months each year,” said CYO executive director Tom Mladenetz.
Mladenetz and the CYO were among many interviews featured in the video. Another included the diocesan outreach organization Mount Carmel Guild of Trenton.
“The number of families with school-aged children visiting our food pantry in July and August 2018 increased by nearly 50 percent compared to families seeking food assistance in May and June,” said Mary Inkrot, the Guild’s executive director. “Food insecurity or food deprivation is scary, particularly for families with children. With limited assets, parents describe juggling their bills each month, choosing to pay rent over utilities, insurance and even food.”
Inkrot and Mladenetz said they appreciated how their agencies are able to collaborate with Mercer’s United Way.
For example, both were awarded monetary grants by United Way to supplement their food supplies and distribution efforts. The CYO was granted $5,000 to restock its Bromley Center food pantry, which serves income-eligible Hamilton Township families. Mount Carmel Guild, which assists Mercer County residents in need through its Emergency Assistance and Home Nursing programs, received $7,500 for its Summer Feeding Families Project.
“A collaboration of agencies spread across Mercer County helping to feed people with the United Way as the facilitator is a great model,” Mladenetz said. “It’s been a blessing for the people in the community.”
Explaining how one in three children in Trenton experiences hunger on a regular basis, Inkrot said how pleased the Guild was “to join with the United Way to increase awareness in our community about childhood hunger and take actions to end it.”