Mercer Street Friends Responds to Food Insecurity with School-Based Pantries in Trenton

Mercer Street Friends Responds to Food Insecurity with School-Based Pantries in Trenton

Mercer Street Friends, a nonprofit whose mission supports local families through comprehensive food and education programs, hosted a ribbon-cutting event today to open a Choice Food Pantry at Luis Muñoz-Rivera Elementary School, the third pantry in the Trenton Public School District.

With 27% of Trenton residents experiencing food insecurity, school-based pantries are critical in addressing food gaps for children and their families. Mercer Street Friends has responded by expanding their Community Schools program to include Family Resource Centers to provide increased access to food and much-needed services.

“We understand the important role school-based resources play for families struggling to care for their children,” says Bernadette Trapp, Director of Community Schools at Mercer Street Friends. “Oftentimes, their needs require immediate action. With onsite resource centers, we can quickly and efficiently reach and respond to this vulnerable population of families.”

Rivera Elementary School is the third Family Resource Center opened by Mercer Street Friends, offering school families convenient access to resources such as assistance with SNAP benefits, housing, immigration, legal, parenting, adult education, and mental health, in addition to a technology space with laptops, printers, fax machines, and office supplies.

Mercer Street Friends CEO Bernie Flynn says the organization remains steadfast in its commitment to Trenton’s three community schools.  “With each pantry opening, we broaden our reach and deepen our impact. We aim to remove barriers to learning by providing a wide range of services and support to our students and their families, including convenient access to food and necessities.”

For Flynn, collaboration is key, “we are fortunate to have a strong partnership with the Trenton Public School District and hope to continue to strengthen our community school foundation with our district partners.”

Rivera Elementary Principal Dr. Oliva Russo remarked on the center’s importance, “we are so grateful to have a partnership with Mercer Street Friends and are thrilled to be able to open a food pantry for our families here at Rivera Elementary School. Many of our families have limited resources and access to healthy foods. Now, they will have healthy options close to home, and we can continue to grow in our ability to serve our community.”

On Friday, March 1, Mercer Street Friends cut the ribbon on a Family Resource Center Food Pantry at Luis Muñoz-Rivera Elementary, the third location in the Trenton School District.
(l to r) Kayla Taylor, Family Resource Centers Coordinator, Mercer Street Friends; Dr. Channing Conway, Assistant Superintendent, Trenton Public Schools; Teska Frisby, West Ward Councilwoman; Bernie Flynn, CEO, Mercer Street Friends; Dr. Oliva Russo, Principal, Rivera Elementary; Reed Gusciora, Mayor City of Trenton; Jenna L. Figueroa Kettenburg, South Ward Councilwoman, City Council Vice President; Jennifer Williams, Trenton North Ward City Councilwoman; Joline Collins, NE Regional Deputy Director for the Coalition for Community Schools; James Allen, Chief Operating Officer / Director of Food Bank, Mercer Street Friends; Bernadette Trapp, Director of Community Schools, Mercer Street Friends; Kaitlin Stahlbrand, Rivera Elementary Site Coordinator, Mercer Street Friends

Representing the Trenton School District, Assistant Superintendent Dr. Channing Conway expressed the district’s gratitude, “The partnership with Mercer Street has been huge for us; we are so excited for everything they continue to do to support our families. This food pantry is amazing –our school community will benefit from this.”

The Northeast Regional Deputy Director for the Coalition for Community Schools, Joline Collins, congratulated everyone on the significant milestone for the community. “Together, you have successfully addressed a barrier that impacts your scholars and families, and when I look around this room, I am inspired because this is what a community school is about. It is about building relationships with your families and community so they are comfortable expressing their needs.”

West Ward Councilwoman Teska Frisby and North Ward Councilwoman Jennifer Williams took the opportunity to thank Mercer Street Friends for identifying the need and taking action by opening another school-based pantry. “This is letting our children know: we see you; we hear you, and you are worth it,” said Frisby.

Jenna L. Figueroa Kettenburg, South Ward Councilwoman and City Council Vice President said, “The [food pantry] initiative addresses immediate hunger needs and promotes long-term health and wellbeing for the community. The collaboration between Mercer Street Friends and the school demonstrates the power of community partnerships.”

The event wrapped with final remarks from Reed Gusciora, Mayor of the City of Trenton, “Food is the fundamental building block of education. Students without essential nutrients cannot study, and this food pantry provides an ultimate social safety net for families and their children to ensure they can concentrate.”

In September 2023, Mercer Street Friends opened its first Family Resource Center in B.C. Gregory Elementary and the second at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School in December. Thus far, the two centers have helped nearly 300 families and counting.

As Trenton’s lead Community School agency, Mercer Street Friends provides elementary age reading intervention programs, other educational opportunities, and social, emotional, physical, and mental health support to students and families year-round, including summer programming.


As a Quaker-affiliated, nonsectarian 501(c)(3) organization, Mercer Street Friends is dedicated to nourishing minds and bodies, empowering families and communities by providing comprehensive programs to address poverty and the physical and emotional trauma it creates for children, families, and the community. Their work is focused on three critical areas: food, families, and education. To learn more about Mercer Street Friends, visit

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