Mercer County Food Pantry Accessibility

Mercer County Food Pantry Accessibility


Trenton Health Team Uses NJ Human Services Inclusive Healthy Communities Grant to Enhance Food Pantry Accessibility for People with Disabilities in Mercer County

(TRENTON) – April 11, 2024

The Trenton Health Team in collaboration with local partners and stakeholders has launched an effort to improve access to food pantries for individuals with disabilities in Mercer County. The initiative is funded in part by an Inclusive Healthy Communities (IHC) grant from the New Jersey Department of Human Services’ Division of Disability Services.

Since the U.S. Department of Agriculture finds that food insecurity is more common and severe in households that include an individual with a disability, the Trenton Health Team has developed a plan to make food pantries across Mercer County more inclusive and accessible.

“Governor Murphy’s Administration, with our partners in the community and in the Legislature, has been focused on policy solutions that help New Jersey families achieve food security through a wide range of efforts,” Human Services Commissioner Sarah Adelman said. “The Trenton Health Team has been a great partner, and we applaud their commitment to reaching out to and serving individuals with disabilities, including by helping to make food pantries more accommodating and accessible. Food security means a healthier New Jersey for all, and individuals with disabilities must be a part of that effort.”

“We’re thrilled to partner with the Trenton Health Team on this much-needed initiative that will help ensure individuals with disabilities have equal access to the resources and assistance available at food pantries,” Human Services Deputy Commissioner for Aging and Disability Services Kaylee McGuire said. “We look forward to seeing the benefits of these efforts serve as a model for the rest of the state.”

IHC is a grant program established in 2020 by the Division of Disability Services. The grants help communities and organizations engage in projects that promote the health and well-being of individuals with disabilities in the communities where they live.

“People with disabilities face significant barriers when trying to access resources such as food pantries,” said Matthew Broad, director of programs at the Trenton Health Team. “Transportation may be an issue, or the individual may not be available when the food pantry is open. There also may be an information barrier: What resources are available? Are there eligibility requirements? Is the location wheelchair accessible?”

Creating better access to benefits and information for our most vulnerable families is a crucial component of New Jersey’s food security work,” said Mark Dinglasan, executive director of the Office of the Food Security Advocate. “I’m extremely grateful to Commissioner Adelman and the Department of Human Services and the Division of Disability Services for their leadership role and support in these efforts. Trenton Health Team is a key partner in NJ’s food security work and this grant will help enhance their role and their work for the benefit of all New Jerseyans.”

Key components of the Trenton Health Team (THT) initiative include:

·         Free Food Finder:Residents can use this online directory to find the location, hours, types of resources, and eligibility requirements of food pantries and soup kitchens throughout Mercer County. Visit the site here.

·         Food Insecurity Index:THT worked with its partners to develop a data mapping tool to visualize the distribution of food insecurity throughout Mercer County and help partner organizations make data-driven decisions about how best to meet the community’s food needs. The Index generates a food insecurity score for census blocks in Mercer County by analyzing demographic indicators such as poverty rate, access to public transportation, elderly people living alone, and individuals with disabilities.   

·         Mercer County Food Stakeholders:Convened and co-facilitated by THT, this group of more than 50 organizations, including food banks, distributors, farms, academic institutions, and government agencies, coordinates the supply and distribution of free food resources in Mercer County, builds organizational capacity, and aligns food security policy.

·         Staff training and accessibility assessments: Working with partners such as the Progressive Center for Independent Living, THT organizes training sessions and workshops for food pantry staff and volunteers, focusing on disability awareness, communication techniques, and best practices for serving individuals with various disabilities. Accessibility assessments of food pantry facilities identify potential improvements such as installing ramps, widening doorways, and putting up clear signage.

“IHC funding has made it possible for us connect with people with disabilities and disability service providers in Mercer County and incorporate them into our Trenton Food Stakeholders group,” Broad said. “Including people with disabilities in decision making has been part of this process from the beginning, and that’s been essential in understanding how best to serve the disability community.”

“Everybody needs access to healthy food,” Division of Disability Services Executive Director Peri L. Nearon said. “By focusing on the needs of people with disabilities, the Trenton Health Team is helping to create a more inclusive and equitable food system in Mercer County and we are learning important lessons about how to replicate their strategies elsewhere in New Jersey.”

Visit here to learn more about the Trenton Health Team.

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