(pictured l to right) Nigel Johnson Jr., Site Coordinator Gregory Elementary School, Bernadette Trapp, Director of Community Schools, Mercer Street Friends; Reed Gusciora, Mayor City of Trenton; Dr. Channing Conway, Assistant Superintendent, Trenton Public Schools; Jeannette Harris, Principal, Gregory Elementary; Bernie Flynn, CEO, Mercer Street Friends; Teska Frisby, West Ward Councilwoman, City Council President; James “Butter” Allen, Chief Operating Officer / Director of Food Bank, Mercer Street Friends; Kayla Taylor, Coordinator of Family Resource Centers, Mercer Street Friends. Photo credit: AZ Johnson
On Friday, September 29, Mercer Street Friends cut the ribbon to open the first-ever Choice Food Pantry at Benjamin C. Gregory Elementary in the Trenton District School.
“Every rainy day should be as bright as today at Gregory.” Bernadette Trapp, Director of Community Schools at Mercer Street Friends addressed a crowd of supporters, including Reed Gusciora, Mayor of the City of Trenton and Teska Frisby, West Ward Councilwoman, City Council President, “We created a model for a family resource center school-based pantry to be implemented in all three of our community schools based on a proven national model. Today we begin at Gregory. We will provide much-needed convenient access to food and services critical to a family’s well-being.”
Bernie Flynn, Mercer Street Friends CEO, remarked on the significance of the milestone, “Today is the best evidence of a community school strategy. The resources we provide are not only available to students, but they are also available to their families – and ultimately to the community surrounding Gregory.”
Flynn thanked Gregory School Principal Jeannette Harris, “Today is possible because of our partnership. We could not do what we do without the vision, innovation, and support from Principal Harris and the incredible staff here at Gregory.”
Principal Harris expressed her gratitude for the “outstanding accomplishment” of having a food pantry and a full-service resource center onsite for school families. With the closest supermarket nearly 2 miles away, accessing food is a hardship for families without a car. “This family resource center is an amazing effort to meet a need.”
Assistant Superintendent Dr. Channing Conway reflected on the trajectory of the district’s partnership with Mercer Street Friends since 2015, “It’s been 8 years of work and commitment, and we appreciate everything [they] have done for our school community. Our hope is that we expand this initiative to even more schools in the future.”
Councilwoman Frisby lives four blocks from Gregory School. She recognized the significant impact the family resource center will have for families. “The quality of services provided by Mercer Street Friends,” coupled with “respecting their privacy and dignity will go a long way in building trust and relationships.”
Mayor Gusciora congratulated Mercer Street Friends and Principal Harris, “This fulfills the proverb it takes a village to raise a child. [It] is a true recognition of how important nutritional learning is to a child’s development.”
In addition to the food pantry, families visiting the resource center will have access to a multitude of services including assistance with SNAP benefits (formerly known as food stamps), housing, immigration, legal, parenting, adult education, and mental health. A separate room of the center will be a dedicated technology room with laptops, printers, fax machines, and office supplies, provided by Mercer Street Friends. Families will have privacy for online appointments and interviews.
The family resource center is an extension of Mercer Street Friends’ Community Schools program in Trenton. Future sites for resource centers include Community Schools, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School and Luis Muñoz-Rivera Elementary.
Mercer Street Friends Community Schools initiative provides elementary level reading intervention programs and other educational opportunities in addition to social, emotional, physical, and mental health support to students and families year-round, including summer programming.