The fight against hunger in the Mercer County area has received a major boost thanks to the Motel and Goldie Bass Social Concerns Fund of The Jewish Center of Princeton.
Five agencies in the county — in addition to two outside of it — have been given one-time, capacity-building grants totaling $32,000 from the fund to help provide nutritious meals for their thousands of clients.
The recipients are: Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County, the Crisis Ministry, HomeFront, Mercer Street Friends Food Bank, and the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK), as well as MAZON, which funds food banks and soup kitchens around the country, and the Israeli soup kitchen and social service agency Hazon Yeshaya.
The fund was established in 2004 by Jewish Center congregant Marian Bass of Princeton in memory of her parents, Holocaust survivors who came to the United States in 1947.
Motel and Goldie Bass 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,” Marian Bass said. “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.
“Creating this fund,” she continued, “is my way of honoring their memory and their essential lesson that each of us must care for our neighbors.”
Louise Sandburg and Gil Gordon, cochairs of the Jewish Center’s social action committee, said in a statement: “It was a great honor for us to help Marian pay tribute to her parents by creating this grant program. It is especially important in these difficult economic times to do what we can to address the growing hunger problem here in Mercer County.”
According to JFCS executive director Linda Meisel, for 18 months the agency had been trying to come up with the money to buy a freezer for its Kosher Food Pantry, so healthier frozen foods could be added to the boxed and canned supplies it stocks for its clients. “We are beyond thrilled to get this grant,” she said. In the past six months, the agency has seen a 20 percent increase in the number of people asking for food assistance, “and the clients we have are staying in need far longer,” Meisel added. Now what she is looking for are more volunteers and donors to buy and donate frozen foods and help stock the pantry.
The Lawrenceville-based HomeFront is a nonprofit agency providing a network of services for the poor and homeless in Mercer County. Its president, Connie Mercer, said, “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. This wonderful grant will mean better meals served at our center and more in our food bags for our families.”
The oven that TASK will be able to purchase with the funds, said executive director Dennis Micai, “will help us 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 are proud to partner with The Jewish Center in the fight against hunger.”