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A New Year of Hunger-Fighting Kicks Off with Jewish Center Fund Grants to Five Area Agencies

At a time when the battle against hunger has never been more important in greater Mercer County, five agencies have received grants to bolster their ability to meet the need for nutritious meals for their clients.

Thanks to generous one-time capacity-building grants from the Motel and Goldie Bass Social Concerns Fund of The Jewish Center of Princeton, the following projects have been funded to jump-start anti-hunger programs in 2011:

  • Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK) will be able to purchase a new energy-efficient convection oven to replace an existing oven with serious deficiencies. This oven is instrumental in TASK's preparation of more than 3,300 meals each week; the grant will cover the full cost of this vital piece of kitchen equipment.
  • The Crisis Ministry will use its grant funding to buy three freezers to store donated high-protein foods; without the freezers the agency has no way to take full advantage of frozen items when they become available and assure a steady supply to its clients. More than 250 tons of food were collected by and distributed by the Crisis Ministry in 2010, and almost 4,000 households received healthy food through its programs. The grant will also enable the purchase of a supply of food to help restock its pantry, and help fund the creation of a raised-bed urban garden on a vacant lot next to the agency's Trenton office. The garden will increase the availability of sorely-needed fresh produce, and in the process engage clients in creating and caring for the garden;
  • HomeFront will upgrade the equipment and utensils in the kitchen of its Family Preservation Center that is an emergency shelter for forty homeless families. This kitchen served more than 83,000 meals in 2010, and desperately needs new appliances and other supplies to replace what now exists. Also, HomeFront will be able to significantly increase the number of people served by its food panty with grant funding that will cover the purchase of two upright freezers and also replenish depleted supplies of bulk food items;
  • Jewish Family and Children's Service provides the only Kosher food pantry in the area to help meet the needs of clients who require Kosher food supplies. This grant will cover the cost of a new freezer for frozen meats and other items to complement its supply of packaged and canned goods. The funding will also get this new service up and running by providing insulated tote bags and a two-month supply of frozen foods for the ninety families served by this program, plus an additional grant for restocking the pantry in general;
  • Mercer Street Friends Food Bank will be able to obtain a variety of material handling and storage equipment to help move and distribute packaged food items in its warehouse. Also, the Food Bank's member agencies will use some of the grant to send representatives for state-mandated ServSafe food-handling training without having to take funds from operating budgets. The grant will also cover the cost of additional food to help restock Food Bank inventory, as well as innovative "healthy eating starter kits" including spices, lower-fat cooking oils, and recipes to encourage clients to reduce their use of salt and less-healthy oils. Mercer Street Friends distributed close to three million pounds of food and groceries in 2010 that reached nearly 25,000 needy residents of Mercer County;

The Bass Fund is also making grants to two organizations outside Mercer County to support their anti-hunger efforts. These are MAZON, which funds food banks and soup kitchens around the country, and Hazon Yeshaya, a major soup kitchen and social services agency in Israel.

Motel and Goldie Bass
This photo of Motel and Goldie Bass was taken in the 1980s. The Motel and Goldie Bass Social Concerns Fund of The Jewish Center of Princeton was created by their daughter Marian Bass in their memory. These warm and smiling faces do not hint at the terrible experiences they had during the Holocaust. They rose above their past but never forgot it, and went on to live lives that were an inspiration to Marian and her brother, and that can inspire the rest of us.

The Motel and Goldie Bass Social Concerns Fund was established in 2004 by Jewish Center congregant Marian Bass, in memory of her parents - Holocaust survivors who immigrated to the US in 1947 and later settled in Atlanta where they ran a small supermarket. "For as long as I can remember, my parents impressed on my brother and me how important it was to make sure that nobody went hungry. They survived the war because they were taken in and hidden by a family of righteous gentiles. They saw it as their duty to help the needy in our community, and sent us to school loaded down with canned goods for every food drive," she said. "Creating this fund is my way of honoring their memory, and their essential lesson that each of us must care for our neighbors."

Representatives from the grant recipients expressed their gratitude for the help provided. "The importance of addressing local childhood hunger can't be overstated. Childhood is a time when developing bodies and brains need good nourishing food so badly," said Connie Mercer, President of HomeFront. "This wonderful grant will mean better meals served at our Center and more meats in our food bags for our families."

Dennis Micai, Executive Director of TASK, also noted the grant's importance. "TASK truly appreciates this generous gift. The oven we'll be able to purchase will help prepare hundreds of thousands of meals that will feed the truly needy among us. This is a wonderful way to bring the wishes of the Bass family to fruition. We at TASK are honored to receive this grant and we are proud to partner with The Jewish Center in the fight against hunger."

This one-time distribution of grants has special meaning for the Jewish Center community as well. "It was a great honor for us to help Marian pay tribute to her parents by creating this grant program," said Louise Sandburg and Gil Gordon, co-chairs of the Social Action Committee at The Jewish Center. "Our entire congregation is very proud of our tradition of community involvement and support, as individual congregants and as a congregation. It is especially important in these difficult economic times to do what we can to address the growing hunger problem here in Mercer County," they added.

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