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Mercer Street Friends, a nonprofit whose mission supports local families through comprehensive food and education programs, recently hosted a ribbon-cutting event to open a Choice Food Pantry at Luis Muñoz-Rivera Elementary School. 

With 27% of Trenton residents experiencing food insecurity, school-based pantries are critical in addressing food gaps for children and their families. Mercer Street Friends has responded by expanding their Community Schools program to include Family Resource Centers to provide increased access to food and much-needed services.  

“We understand the important role school-based resources play for families struggling to care for their children,” Bernadette Trapp, director of Community Schools at Mercer Street Friends said at the March 1 ribbon-cutting event. “Oftentimes, their needs require immediate action. With onsite resource centers, we can quickly and efficiently reach and respond to this vulnerable population of families.” 

Rivera Elementary School is the third Family Resource Center opened by Mercer Street Friends, offering school families convenient access to resources such as assistance with SNAP benefits, housing, immigration, legal, parenting, adult education, and mental health, in addition to a technology space with laptops, printers, fax machines, and office supplies. 

Mercer Street Friends CEO Bernie Flynn says the organization remains steadfast in its commitment to Trenton’s three community schools.  

“With each pantry opening, we broaden our reach and deepen our impact,” Flynn said. “We aim to remove barriers to learning by providing a wide range of services and support to our students and their families, including convenient access to food and necessities. 

“We are fortunate to have a strong partnership with the Trenton Public School District and hope to continue to strengthen our community school foundation with our district partners,” Flynn said. 

Rivera Elementary Principal Dr. Oliva Russo said the school was grateful for its partnership with Mercer Street Friends. 

“Many of our families have limited resources and access to healthy food,” Russo said. “Now, they will have healthy options close to home, and we can continue to grow in our ability to serve our community.”  

 Representing the Trenton School District, Assistant Superintendent Dr. Channing Conway expressed the district’s gratitude. 

 “The partnership with Mercer Street has been huge for us; we are so excited for everything they continue to do to support our families. This food pantry is amazing – our school community will benefit from this,” Conway said.  

Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora pointed out that food is the fundamental building block of education. 

“Students without essential nutrients cannot study, and this food pantry provides an ultimate social safety net for families and their children to ensure they can concentrate,” Gusciora said. 

In September 2023, Mercer Street Friends opened its first Family Resource Center in B.C. Gregory Elementary and the second at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School in December. Thus far, the two centers have helped nearly 300 families and counting.  

 As Trenton’s lead Community School agency, Mercer Street Friends provides elementary age reading intervention programs, other educational opportunities, and social, emotional, physical, and mental health support to students and families year-round, including summer programming. 

Photo caption: Mercer Street Friends cut the ribbon on a Family Resource Center Food Pantry at Luis Muñoz-Rivera Elementary, the third location in the Trenton School District. – Photo courtesy of Mercer Street Friends.