The Trenton Area Soup Kitchen will open a second Princeton satellite location next month in partnership with the First Baptist Church on John Street.
Starting on May 5, dinner will be served at First Baptist each Tuesday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.The Princeton United Methodist Church serves dinners on Wednesday evenings.
“TASK is very excited to begin a partnership with the First Baptist Church of Princeton,” Micai said. “This will be our second satellite site in Princeton and ninth overall in the Mercer County area. TASK expects to serve more than 250,000 meals this year to our neighbors that are experiencing hunger insecurity.”
The newest location was organized to accommodate schedules for residents in need, and to satisfy a high demand for the program in Princeton, said Rev. Carlton Branscomb, pastor of the First Baptist Church.
First Baptist expects to serve around 50 meals a week in the early stages of the program, Branscomb said, and he expects demand to grow as more residents learn about the program. Meals will be delivered by TASK and served by volunteers.
Branscomb said the project had been in the back of his mind for several years, and that he was very excited when a TASK representative suggested a partnership. The church previously developed a relief fund for children orphaned by the AIDS epidemic in Malawi and recently raised money for Liberians suffering from Ebola.
“We needed a strong domestic program where we’re meeting the needs of the community that we live in too,” Branscomb said.
Branscomb said the program requires about five volunteers a week, and that both church members and other community members have been extremely helpful. Organizers hope the program will be simple, have a positive impact and be sustainable longterm, Branscomb said.
“We’re hoping those who are in need will come out and get a nice meal for themselves in an environment where they are treated with respect that is non-judgmental,” he said.
Although Princeton’s median household income was more than $100,000 between 2009 and 2013, 6.1 percent of the town’s population lives at or below the national poverty level, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This translates to roughly 1,700 citizens living on an annual income of $11,670 or less.
“I always knew that Princeton has a population that is under-served. I just didn’t know it was as many as the statistics are stating,” Branscomb said.
Most people look at the median income of a town without considering the composition of incomes, local statistician Ralph Widner said. Certain people with very high incomes push the median up, Widner explained, while the bottom 20 percent of households in Mercer County is second only to Trenton in earning the state’s lowest incomes.
“There is a lot of mythology about poverty in Princeton,” Widner said, noting that the poverty level for Latinos is the highest at 13.5 percent. The percentage is probably even higher — a significant portion of Latinos living below the poverty line are undocumented, further preventing accurate data collection, Widner said. About 8 percent of the population in Princeton Latino, and a quarter of the Latinos living in Princeton are students at Princeton University.
Princeton launched a Send Hunger Packing program a few years ago to provide meals for schoolchildren who receive free lunches over the weekend. Mayor Liz Lempert said programs like TASK are essential to the Princeton community.
“I think there’s been a growing awareness among people in the community that we do have residents who are going hungry, and I think at the same time the feeling that, as a community, we shouldn’t be letting that happen here,” she said.