COVID-19 Adds Food Access Challenges
Access to fresh, healthy, affordable food is a critical issue in Trenton. Decades of disinvestment have left much of the city a food desert and between 80-100% of residents in some neighborhoods have limited access to healthy food. This already challenging situation has been made worse by the Coronavirus pandemic.
Our Trenton Food Stakeholders group, convened by the Trenton Health Team (THT) in February 2019 to improve food access and nutrition across the city, now is confronting increased food insecurity prompted by the health and economic crisis related to COVID-19.
In response, the Trenton Food Stakeholders group has grown to represent more than 35 organizations and members decided to meet bi-weekly rather than monthly.
THT plays a necessary coordinating role for Trenton Food Stakeholders group participants already busy adapting their own operations to meet escalating food needs. The Trenton Food Stakeholders group is organized into four work groups focusing on 1) economic development, 2) policy and advocacy, 3) food banks and pantries, and 4) cooking/nutrition education.
Together, we are collaborating and sharing resources, identifying gaps in food access and information, creating new connections between different parts of the food supply and distribution network to fill those gaps, mobilizing resources to fill immediate supply and capacity needs and coordinating information between organizations and the public.
The Trenton Food Stakeholders group’s current projects include:
- Assessing organizations’ services and capacity – As an example, if additional food were available, would they be able to package and distribute it? Do they lack volunteers, equipment, supplies, food?
- Tracking and analyzing distribution offerings, sites, and times — THT maintains an online list and map of food resources, updated daily, to guide residents in need and identify populations and locations lacking resources.
- Working to secure resources to help farms or distributors make donations to organizations serving Trenton. Recently, Rolling Harvest hosted two free farmers’ markets open to Trenton residents.
- Supporting policy advocacy on food safety net rules and supports for food growers and distributors.
- Strengthening organizations’ capacity, such as helping secure funding and working to expand food system infrastructure, such as cold storage capacity.
THT believes this systems-level work not only helps meet community needs today, but also will improve equitable food access beyond the current crisis.