It’s important to take initiatives to help those who are in need of food and a home, especially since the rate of poverty in the nation keeps growing. The College’s Theta Phi Alpha sorority recognized that by adopting its first annual Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.
From Monday, Nov. 18 through Thursday, Nov. 21, Theta Phi Alpha joined the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK) to help feed people in Trenton who are struggling to pay rent by providing food for their families. After students at the College bought baked goods and donated canned goods and toiletries throughout the week, the sorority brought all of its donations to TASK.
“Our philanthropy is dedicated to helping the hungry and the homeless,” said junior communication studies major and chair of Hunger and Homelessness Awareness week Regina Yorkigitis. “We’ve been involved in TASK as a sorority for a while and volunteer occasionally, so we wanted to put a lot of time into this.”
The community relations development specialist of TASK, J Steinhauer, visited the College on Thursday, Nov. 21 to cap off the awareness week and talk about the nonprofit organization’s functions. Monday through Friday, the Soup Kitchen has a dozen cooks who serve two meals per day to the hungry in Trenton, and anyone is welcome to come in and volunteer.
“We have well-balanced meals that are USDA-approved,” Steinhauer said. “They include a starch, salad, protein and dessert. We have a milk option in the morning and then we have juice.”
Steinhauer added that the TASK relies heavily on donations. Sixty percent of their funding comes from individuals from Trenton and other towns, and the rest comes from government organizations, religious organizations, foundations and corporations. The $2.3 million organization served 209,900 meals last year — the highest number of meals they have ever served.
In addition to providing meals for the hungry, TASK also has an adult education program. The program teaches computer classes that consist of résumé writing and job training. It also teaches high school subjects to those who haven’t had the opportunity to receive their high school diplomas.
“This year, we celebrated 21 students who received their GED through the program,” Steinhauer said. “That’s an unbelievable accomplishment, especially when the GED test is a lot harder than getting your high school diploma.”
The Soup Kitchen also has a performing arts program. They have a music group called “The FunkTASKtics” and a poetry group called the “Share Project.” These groups perform Mondays and Thursdays. Steinhauer explained that TASK implements these programs to present opportunities to people who don’t normally have them — the people of Trenton.
“You have Princetion, Lawrenceville, Pennington … all these places with all this stuff happening around Trenton,” Steinhauer said. “And then you have this poverty-stricken area right in the center of all this wealth. How does this happen?”
According to Steinhauer, Trenton’s per-capita income is $17,000 and Mercer County’s income is $116,000, so it’s quite difficult to understand such drastic economic differences of Trenton and the towns that surround it. But according to Steinhauer, there is one way to help Trenton by simply becoming more aware of its problems. He acknowledged that it’s because of the efforts of Theta Phi Alpha and other organizations on campus that TASK is able to donate hundreds of thousands of forks, knives and spoons, as well as bagged lunches for kids to take to school.
“It’s important to carry some of this awareness with you and know that people are going through serious situations right down the road,” he said.