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Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK) keeps neighbors’ hearts, bellies full

by Christine Wolkin

On a cold day in January of 1982, 60 hungry people gathered for a free meal provided by a small group of individuals from local churches and service organizations in the basement of a Trenton church.

By the end of that year, more 40,000 meals had been served.

No one knew there were so many hungry people in Trenton.

Since then, the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK) has relied on the commitment and untiring effort of many individuals to provide more than 3,000 free meals per week to people in the Trenton area.

“There would be no TASK without our volunteers. From the beginning, TASK has relied on their generosity to help prepare, serve meals and clean up; to tutor in adult education; and to staff the many other programs,” says Executive Director Joyce E. Campbell.

She continued, “TASK could literally not feed all those who come to our doors, both at our main facility on Escher Street, and our 13 satellite sites, without volunteers. Volunteers have the important role of serving our meals, delivering meals directly to our patrons, providing them with a sense of dignity. Our regular volunteers have been known to establish relationships with some patrons that improve the quality of both of their lives,” That, Joyce stresses, is priceless.

TASK is a private, non-sectarian, charitable organization that depends almost entirely on the help of dedicated volunteers and generous financial support from individuals, churches, local businesses and community organizations.

Volunteers come as individuals, families or members of school organizations, churches, synagogues, civic and social organizations, and corporations from the Greater Trenton area, Monday through Friday, 52 weeks a year.

In addition to feeding their neighbors, staff and volunteers also direct their efforts towards helping patrons achieve healthier lifestyles, increased self-esteem, and self-sufficiency.

“Our adult education program assists patrons in earning their high school equivalency, preparing for vocational tests and for some, learning how to read and write. TASK also has a job search specialist, professional social work services, and a robust arts program. TASK feeds the body first, but, through our holistic approach, feeds the mind and spirit as well,” says Joyce.

The food kitchen intentionally limits its government funding so that staff can shape their programs and services to the needs of their patrons.

TASK is able to do this because of the generosity of donors who know their money is invested to meet the needs of all.

“One of the hallmarks of TASK is our ‘no questions asked’ policy. Anyone can come in and eat without having to share any information about themselves. And, when a patron wants they can take part in any of the services we offer without any stringent eligibility criteria,” said Joyce.

Because the holidays can be an especially stressful time of the year, TASK makes a conscious effort to provide each individual, each family, with a happy and healthy holiday season.

TASK celebrates Thanksgiving by providing “Thanksgiving at Home” baskets to 300 households, so that they can share the holiday meal with their families in their own homes. 

On Thanksgiving Day TASK serves a special holiday lunch, complete with a decorated dining room and volunteers helping to serve the typical Thanksgiving dinner.

For more information about volunteering or visiting any of TASK’s 13 locations, visit http://www.trentonsoupkitchen.org/.

PHOTO CAP: A happy family at the Trenton Soup Kitchen, Trenton, NJ.