Partnering to Improve Food Access for People with Disabilities in Mercer County
Matthew Broad / Trenton Health Team
May 17, 2023
Too many people in Mercer County face food insecurity, meaning that at times they lack the money and other resources to buy enough food for their households. As of 2020, the food insecurity rate in Mercer County was 8.3% (Feeding America, 2022). Ensuring that everyone has sufficient fresh, healthy, affordable food is a critical and complicated issue.
There is a growing body of evidence that indicates households that include people with disabilities are at a high risk of food insecurity, although further research is required to better understand the connection. Barriers that people with disabilities may face include income, access to technology, language, transportation, and discrimination. These barriers make it difficult for people with disabilities to access the free food resources available to them.
To decrease some of the barriers that people with disabilities may face, Trenton Health Team and the Progressive Center for Independent Living are collaborating to improve the accessibility of free food resources in Mercer County. The goals of the collaboration are to identify opportunities and make recommendations to address physical and experiential access at food pantries, work with food delivery organizations to improve their services for people with different disabilities, and upgrade the Mercer County Free Food Finder to add information about food site accessibility.
The Mercer County Free Food Finder app was developed by the Trenton Health Team, in collaboration with a group of students from Princeton University and Trenton Food Stakeholders, to help community members find free food resources in Mercer County. The app lists food pantries and meal distribution sites serving children, families, seniors, and adults. The information in this directory is updated regularly.
In early 2019 Trenton Health Team, co-facilitated by Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Mercer County, convened the Trenton Food Stakeholders (TFS) to stimulate collaboration around improving the regional food system. TFS focuses on understanding, documenting, and strengthening the food safety net through mapping, data analytics, mobilizing resources, and assisting partners in coordinating their work. More than 50 organizations participate in TFS, including Mercer Street Friends (the food bank for Mercer County), Rider University, Hunger Free NJ, a local family farm, a small regional food distributor, food pantries, and organizations that provide regular and emergency food services for different populations, such as HomeFront, the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen, and the Capital Area YMCA. Currently the group is meeting monthly.