Share My Meals, the local nonprofit that is feeding more than 60 families a day, is seeking to raise at least $2,500 by the end of the Memorial Day weekend to continue to meet the needs of the hungry in Princeton.
Princeton already had a significant food-insecure population before the pandemic, and the need for food increased in March after many people lost jobs. Some workers who lost jobs have not been able to collect unemployment or are not eligible. Many Princeton area residents have said they are struggling to put food on the table now.
“I’ve gone almost two months without receiving my benefits and I’ve been approved since March 22,” said a resident who identified himself as Shefi. “Now I have no money for food for my child and parents. We are very stressed now because of food. But at least some organizations are helping us bridge the gap until we can get relief.”
Stan Berteloot, a Share My Meals board member, said people assume that poverty is not an issue in the rich Ivy League town, but the unfortunate hidden reality is that there is a significant food-insecure population that is being disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 crisis.
“The situation is dire,” said Berteloot. “The need in Princeton is increasing exponentially.”
Every day, Share My Meals distributes meals to more than 60 families. Each meal tray is enough to feed five people.
Many elderly residents and immigrants depended on Share My Meals before the crisis. The nonprofit feeds some families with children who qualify for the school district’s free and reduced lunch program. More people need food since the crisis began, and the organization is working to serve a broader group.
Before the pandemic, Share My Meals was reclaiming unused meals from corporate cafeterias, schools, universities, and restaurants. The non-profit had to pivot during the pandemic, and is now paying a few local restaurants $5 a meal for the cost of goods in order to provide fresh food to the hungry.
Isabelle Lambotte, president of Share My Meals. said local restaurant owners have offered their services as a way to keep some of their own workers employed while doing good in the community.
Berteloot has set up a Go Fund Me for Share My Meals to raise money to enable the organization to provide more meals. He said donations directly and immediately help Share My Meals deliver fresh, healthy meals to the hungry in Princeton. All donations are tax-deductible. Go Fund Me donors who live in Princeton, Montgomery, and Hopewell can redeem a free “Shelter in Place” family photo session compliment of photographer Tamara Gillon. The photo session is a safe, no-touch artistic portrait session taken through a glass door or window of your home.
The Share My Meals board of directors is made up of concerned residents from the Princeton community and is run by volunteers. Berteloot is hoping to raise enough money by the end of the holiday weekend to provide residents with at least 500 more meals.
“We sorely need donations,” Berteloot said. “We are trying to extend our reach in these difficult times.”