Princeton employees loading food packages for delivery

Princeton University kicks off second year of Summer Food and Nutrition Program to address pandemic-related food insecurity in Mercer County

June 14, 2021 8:28 a.m.

This summer, Princeton University is again serving up its Summer Food and Nutrition Program, an initiative started last year to collaborate with area nonprofits to provide meals for at-risk families, children and individuals during the pandemic. Pictured: Members of the Campus Dining team finish the assembly of bagged lunches and meal trays for community partners HomeFront, the Rescue Mission of Trenton and Trenton Area Soup Kitchen.

To address food insecurity in local communities due to the pandemic, Princeton University’s Campus Dining, Human Resources, Office of Community and Regional Affairs and John H. Pace, Jr. ‘39 Center for Civic Engagement established the Summer Food and Nutrition Program in 2020. This summer, the initiative continues and includes collaborations with three area nonprofits to provide meals for at-risk families, children and individuals.

The Summer Food and Nutrition Program 2021 began June 7 and runs through July 2. The program offers continuity of employment, including health benefits, to Campus Dining employees who normally work for nine months a year.

Campus Dining’s culinary team, led by Tommy Thothongkum and Brian Driscoll, executive chefs, and Brian Schoenbeck, executive pastry chef, have put together the menus and along with their teams are producing approximately 3,800 meals a week to be distributed to people in surrounding communities.

Campus Dining workers line up packages of food to be delivered

Campus Dining team members Orlando Griffiths, retail food service worker (left); Marie Deravil, retail food service worker; and Maria Datuin, operations manager, prepare bagged meals in one of Princeton's dining facilities.

The University has longstanding relationships with the partner organizations: HomeFront, the Rescue Mission of Trenton and Trenton Area Soup Kitchen. The community reach of these nonprofits includes children; families; veterans; those experiencing homelessness; and people living in shelter, living alone, and living at and above the poverty line. The demographic reach includes Asian Americans, Blacks, Hispanics and whites. The geographic reach spans Mercer Country — including Princeton, the Route 1 corridor closest to Princeton, Trenton, Lawrence, East Windsor, West Windsor and Hightstown.

Overseeing the planning and direction are David Dembek, associate retail director; Paul Dylik, assistant director of catering; Donna Pilenza, director of residential dining; Cristian Vasquez, director of retail and catering operations; Erin Metro, associate director for community relations; and David Brown, assistant director of the Pace Center.

“I was very happy when I found out the University would be willing to fund the program again this summer,” Vasquez said. “Not only does this secure employment for our Campus Dining employees during the summer, but it also allows us to produce nutritious meals to support our local community organizations who are assisting individuals and families in need.”

He continued: “I know how important this is for all of us in our community, especially as we come out of this pandemic that has affected so many individuals and families in ways we couldn’t have imagined.”

Following are details of each partnership.

HomeFront

The Summer Food and Nutrition Program will provide 950 lunch and dinner meals that HomeFront delivers to homeless individuals and families living in motels on Route 1, families with toddlers living on the HomeFront campus in Lawrence and meals for children’s summer camps.

Rescue Mission of Trenton

The Summer Food and Nutrition Program will provide lunch and dinner — about 1700 meals per week — for those who are in recovery and treatment, and those who are homeless and living at the Rescue Mission of Trenton.

Trenton Area Soup Kitchen

The Summer Food and Nutrition Program will provide 1200 lunch meals per week for TASK. TASK serves healthy meals offers a variety of services to address the issue of hunger in our community. TASK’s mission is to feed those who are hungry in the Trenton area and offer programs to encourage self-sufficiency and improve the quality of life. All of TASK’s programs are free and available to anyone, no questions asked.

Committed to community near and far in time of COVID-19