Over time, technology has become a useful tool to many Americans; so useful that for the most part, everything is now done electronically. With computers, cell phones, iPads, tablets and much more, the Internet can be accessed by those who are fortunate enough to provide themselves with these resources. However, there are people who struggle financially and do not have the opportunity to equip themselves with these advancements.
With that being said, there has been a digital divide formed between those who have regular access to the Internet and those who do not. The digital divide occurs between those people who are financially capable of keeping up with the vast advancements in technology and those who cannot afford such luxuries.
Homelessness is something that does not only occur in Mercer County and the Trenton area, but all around the United States. In the year of 2015, in Mercer County alone, there were approximately 600 people left out on the streets at night, experiencing the treacherous conditions of homelessness.
This number does not include the numerous amount of people who struggle to provide for their family, who live paycheck to paycheck and those who have to choose between necessities such as warmth at night or dinner on the table.
Many people have acknowledged the importance of homeless citizens who need the experiences of computers and the internet, and have acted positively to supported these people. Specifically, the Rescue Mission of Trenton is a non-profit organization agency in the city of Trenton that serves men and women who are in need of food, shelter, and other necessities.
The TEACH program, which has been created by the Rescue Mission of Trenton, allows people who do not have a home with a computer or the means to afford a computer, to access the internet, learn how to search the web, and navigate their way through the digital world.
Because many job applications are to be completed online, the TEACH program provides people with opportunities for employment and to better their lives. Both classroom instruction and one-on-one tutoring are offered through the program. Tutors consist of volunteers from the area who are very good at working with computers and searching the internet.
The Rescue Mission of Trenton’s goal is to provide a safe, clean, and warm refuge for the homeless, the hungry, the transient and the addicted. People will find this program very beneficial if they are interested in GED preparation, basic literacy tutoring, parenting classes and computer and word processing skills.
The Rescue Mission of Trenton is located on 98 Carroll Street in Trenton, New Jersey. It is open from Monday through Saturday, opening at 10 a.m. and closing at 5 p.m. If interested in contacting this facility, call (609) 695-1436.
Children living in food deserts are forced to make unhealthy food choices, resulting in misbehavior in class and health decline. One would not think that the capital of New Jersey, the home of the governor of the state, is a food desert.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, a food desert is “urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy and affordable foods.”
The reason why Trenton is considered a food desert is because of there are only two supermarkets in the whole city. This is what leads to the locals having less access to healthy and nutritious food which shows up on their physical and mental behavior.
According to the National Education Association, missing meals and experiencing hunger impairs children’s development and achievement. Well Trenton’s education level just happens to be low, in fact, it is one of the lowest ones in the state of New Jersey.
Out of individuals who are 25 years old or older, who attended school in Trenton, 30 percent did not graduate high school. With Trenton having plenty of low income areas, this comes with poor performance in education as kids have other things to worry about, such as, what will their next meal be?
Did you know that according to the Community Health Needs Assessment Report of July 2013, nearly half of the children of Trenton are considered obese due to the lack of access to healthy foods? This is caused by a food desert. Food deserts are affecting the children of the Trenton area in terms of behavior, academic performance, and overall health.
In the article The Real Problem With Lunch, by Bettina Elias Siegel, it is pointed out that while in France, the average school lunch costs about $7, in the United States, it is $3. This difference in price causes a lack in quality nutrition that growing children need.
According to the National Education Foundation, meat from fast food restaurants is safer than the meat you will find in a school lunch. The meat that is served at a fast food restaurant is checked five to 10 times more often for bacteria than what the USDA requires. The meat that does not pass inspection is sent to schools for school lunch. The regulations for schools and retailers are so different that the same plant that produced ground beef that was recalled for salmonella at retailers still shipped ground beef that was processed during that outbreak to schools.
Besides just meat, some schools do not even have a safe kitchen. USA Today discovered that over 8,500 schools all over America did not have their kitchens inspected in 2008. On top of that, 18,000 schools did not complete the mandatory twice a year inspections. So instead of opting for a cheap $3 lunch for your child, provide them with a healthy lunch full of nutrition from home.
All across the country, schools are loaded with vending machines to fulfill everyone’s sweet tooth. Although eating candy and other unhealthy foods are okay to have every once in awhile, having easier access to healthier foods should be a priority in schools.
When kids walk into the lunchroom, the first thing they lay their eyes upon are the junk food. Although that Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup may be tempting, children should think twice before eating unhealthy foods. Simple carbohydrates in candy stimulate brain regions associated with reward. This causes the craving children have for wanting more sweets rather than healthy foods. Also, refined sugars that are in candy, sodas and bread all reach the bloodstream quickly. This causes what is known as a “sugar high.” This unwanted behavior creates an inability for children to pay attention. So instead of blaming children’s actions for poor choices in food, we should educate them or restrict their access to sweets.
A total of about 2.4 million houses are said to be sitting on a food desert. According to the U.S Department of Agriculture, counties with a high percentage of house sitting on a food desert have a higher percentage of adults with obesity than counties with a lesser percentage of houses sitting in a food desert which means that there is a direct correlation between food deserts and obesity.
In an interview with an anonymous worker from the Eastern Service Workers Association, he said, “There is actually scientific theory that explains failure to thrive and it is proven that malnourishment affects children’s development. It is proven that malnourishment builds stress which wears down ability to concentrate.”
As a non-profit worker for the community of Trenton, he has an understanding of the situation in the area.
“Children’s nutrition depends on their family situation,” he said.
When asked about whether he believed that the situation in Trenton was improving regarding food desserts, he answered, “No. By the government’s definition 27 percent of the people in Trenton are in poverty and over 50 percent of those in poverty in Trenton do not qualify for food stamps.”
After interviewing this man with experience with was is going on in Trenton, then it is safe to draw the connections between the lack of nutrients in children and educational performance.
The food deserts in the Trenton area are affecting the educational development of children and the fact that there are only two supermarkets in the city does not help the situation. Children part of a low income family in Trenton are the ones that tend to suffer by the lack of a nearby supermarket. This, eventually, shows up on their educational performance. It is hard not to understand why such relation would make sense, just think about what it would be like if you had to wonder if you were going to eat tonight on top of thinking about your homework. The thought of such may make you wish that this was not your situation; however, this is the reality for many kids in Trenton.
With many empty buildings and lots in the city, Trenton had plenty of space for supermarkets to move in and yet, we do not see that happening. If there is going to be a change, then it should start with them since they are the ones who are responsible for the distribution of food and Trenton could us a lot of it.
According to the Community Food Bank of New Jersey, 16.1 million children in the United States, 27 percent of the American population live under the poverty level and suffer from food insecurity. Specifically, according to the Community Food Bank of New Jersey more than 300,000 children in the Garden State do not have food security on a day-to-day basis. Moreover, the majority of children in Trenton are food deprived and likely not introduced to healthy foods like vegetables while growing up.
These numbers can change. The food banks, schools and organizations throughout Trenton have the chance to turn around the statistics of children who are struggling with food insecurity and create solutions.
Not only do the food banks in Trenton such as Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK) and Mercer Street Friends Food Bank fight to end food deprivation in children, but also they have teamed up with the Trenton public schools to educate and feed children throughout the Trenton area healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables.
According to TASK, around 300 children go to the local food banks each year.
“Healthy foods like fresh vegetables and fruits are more expensive than canned foods, which are higher in sodium and less nutritious than their fresh counterparts,” said Jaime Parker, the manager of production at TASK. “ Also, the City of Trenton does not have many grocery stores that sell fresh foods.”
The food banks in Trenton and in the Mercer county area, such as TASK and Mercer Street Friends, are coming together and developing programs for families and children who are food insecure.
Parker explains some programs in which TASK has: “Our ‘Thanksgiving at Home’ Program provides families with all the ingredients to cook and eat Thanksgiving dinner at home, […] we host a special Spring Egg Hunt just for children, and invite our families to come to a special Halloween party and Back to School backpack and supply distribution.”
Trenton Area Soup Kitchen and Mercer Street Friends Food Bank are just two examples of the fight towards food security for children throughout New Jersey.
Not only do the food banks around Trenton promote healthy eating, but the public schools in Trenton do as well.
Parker explains the reality in which Trenton faces, “Many low-income families may not have regular access to a working car and do not live within walking distance to one of the grocery stores that do sell fresh produce. Eating healthy foods is a challenge for low-income families in Trenton.”
Most children in Trenton do not learn much about healthy eating at home because they do not have access to healthy foods, which is why the school districts throughout the mercer county area are responsible for giving these children a healthy lifestyle.
As told by TASK, “during the week, there are many kids who rely on free/reduced breakfast and lunch programs in school.”
Some students have never seen some of the foods that are on their plates during lunch because they have never been introduced to such foods before. Therefore, the schools in the Trenton area are trying to change that through school gardens as well. The school gardens allow the children to see how food grows and the options of healthy foods there actually are. All in all, the Trenton public schools are changing the way children look at food.
Moreover, there are nonprofit organizations in Trenton, like Isles, Inc., that supports education for the children and parents of New Jersey about healthy eating and growing fresh produce.
Isles, Inc. is a community garden in Trenton that supports more than 60 school and community gardens, teaching children the knowledge on growing fresh food. Isles allows the children throughout Trenton to be introduced to fresh foods like vegetables and how they can grow their own food.
Isles along with many other programs like community gardens throughout Trenton are the moving towards the goal of no more hunger in the city of Trenton — one step at a time. Children in Trenton and New Jersey will be educated about fresh foods and have food security instead of being food insecure and organizations like Isles is how the solution begins.
Children in Trenton and around America who suffer from malnutrition lower both their health and well being every time they eat Cheetos instead of carrots. Stated in an article written by Catherine Saint Louis, “Pediatricians Are Asked to Join Fight Against Childhood Hunger,” some pediatricians do not even realize how many children in their community are victims of food insecurity.
According to Louis, the American Academy of Pediatrics is urging pediatricians to familiarize themselves with the food banks around their area and closely examine children for food deprivation. Due to food deprivation, children are becoming sicker and are being hospitalized more often than children who eat healthy. The doctors around America are using screening tools to determine whether or not children in their community are suffering from a lack of food; the pediatricians have the ability to educate both the children and the parents about what a healthy diet consists of and how they can have one. Pediatricians have the power to tackle food insecurity at the source and educate families. Pediatric doctors around America and within the Trenton area can help stop food deprivation for children, one step at a time.
All in all, the astonishing statistics of children who are food deprived in the United States can and will change with the help of the community and many organizations who are making a difference every day for children.
The food banks throughout Trenton such as TASK and Mercer Street Friends Food Bank are just one piece of the puzzle to fight food insecurity. Along with the food banks, the public school who have teamed up with the food banks throughout Trenton are just an additional solution for children who do not have access to health foods, bringing the healthy foods to them.
Slowly but surely, Trenton can push through the bumps in the road ahead and fight for the children who are food insecure.
Food insecurity is the lack of food access based on financial and other resources. Being in a food desert and experiencing food insecurity are two different situations, but there are programs that offer help. Although, programs may help with obtaining food for those who are struggling, the consequences of food insecurity can be long term. The consequences not only affect adults, but children as well. Those consequences can lead to long term effects unless helped within time.
A functioning society is one which, as the world states, functions as a result of having several interrelated parts working together. In such a society, one must be able to achieve basic requirements. Experiencing hunger is an unfortunate situation that many individuals are experiencing throughout the city of Trenton and Mercer County in New Jersey.
The food insecurity level in New Jersey was 12.7 percent overall and 19 percent for children. According to New Jersey Anti-hunger Coalition (NJHAC), there 394,240 children were living in food insecure households. It affects the population negatively because those affected will function on an unhealthy diet.
Lia Pitz, the Program Director of Advocacy, set goals and their sole mission is to reach out to individuals to educate them about hunger in New Jersey. She is part of a team that represents NJHAC. NJHAC is program that works to end hunger in New Jersey through advocacy, activism and education.
“I have had the pleasure to meet some wonderful people as the program’s advocate,” said Pitz. “I’ve also seen and heard of the effects that food insecurity can and will have on people.”
NJHAC has been working hard since 1980 to educate the public about the effects of hunger and what can be done to help relieve hunger in the communities. In Trenton, the program is helping schools by providing them with free breakfast and lunches.
“Children are the future, but many will not thrive if they are not being fed,” her voice saddened a little. “There is a correlation between the behavior of children, hunger and poverty. They are more likely to act out in school when living in a food insecurity household.”
Also, the program is in partnership with Rutgers University, in order to expand its message through students.
“I love this program for what it is trying to accomplish,” said Pitz. “Yes, we do work in Trenton. We’re affiliated with Trenton Area Soup Kitchen. What we do is advocate those living in food insecurity of what the solutions are. They need to know that there is hope and that there are programs to help.”
The children of Trenton are experiencing hunger, which is affecting their school work and the adults will start to experience the consequences when working. Studies have shown that teenagers, between the ages of 13-18, will be twice as likely to have emotional problems or to instigate problems. This is due to the child experiencing stress because they do not know where their next meal will come, which, in turn, affects them. Proper diet is not only beneficial for better physical health, but for mental as well. Getting the proper nutrients in the body will excel the minds of many upcoming generations.
On the other hand, the parents experience stress, because they do not have the money to invest into proper food for their family. Essentially when given the choice to invest in $10 worth of fries and burgers versus $10 worth of veggies that barely feeds one person, many tend to choose something that is filling instead of looking at the labels for nutrition benefits. It’s a vicious cycle that will not be stopped unless help is sought.
Unfortunately, studies have shown that mental problems in teenager has increased due to living in a food insecurity household. A study by Elservier stated, “The study found that a one standard deviation increase in food insecurity was associated with a 14 percent increased odds of past-year mental disorder among adolescents, even after controlling for poverty and numerous other indicators of socioeconomic status.”
Evidence for exposure to many vegetables and fruits in growing children has not been found since money is an issue. Fortunately, there are programs that offer aid, such as Mercer Street Friends.
Mercer Street Friends is multi-faceted human service agency located on Mercer Street. The agency’s purpose is to help communities and families out of poverty. The program was founded in 1958 when a few individuals were worried about Trenton’s increase of poverty and the impact it would have on it’s residents. They will help those living in poverty or with food insecurity by providing resources, food and aid.
Hunger is branched off from poverty or lack of finance and an article written by Nicholas Kristof, an op-ed columnist who speaks about the progress of poverty. He begins the article in words of Reagan, “We fought war on poverty, and poverty won.”
Then Kristof states that children should be a priority when saving people from poverty. Children should be helped first because the consequences of poverty will lead to crime, unemployment and lack of education. He further explains that a child’s mental health will also be affected, due the stress that poverty puts on children and on their parents. Their performance in school and in life will be impaired due to mental health. Kristof looks down upon our nation and how it could have let its children experience poverty for 50 years.
Children and their parents are the ones who will be affected the most. Children are the future and should be the first to be aided in. Families should not be ashamed to admit that they are living in food insecurity and reach out. Programs and agency are waiting to assist the people in need and will welcome anyone with open arms.
Food deserts are a national problem. Food deserts are town or cities that have little to no resources to have a healthy meal.
According to an article posted on Trenton250, there are only three supermarkets in Trenton that is serving the community.
With food deserts comes food insecurities. Food insecurities has a broader effect than most think. Families go hungry and students struggle to succeed in the class room. With all the research and interviews, it seems as if the only way to combat the struggles of food insecurities are to open more programs for families to get the necessary nutrients that are needed, as well as for the government to provide more funding to the families that need it the most.
Even in the Garden State of New Jersey families are facing food insecurities, whereby many parents have to choose between food and bills. Most have to choose bills in order to keep a roof over their head.
According to New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids, 17 percent of families in Trenton experience food insecurity on a daily bases. Food insecurities are points in time when one struggles to have an adequate amount of food. Most parents tend to allow their children to eat while they go hungry. Bills such as rent, PSE&G and water bills tend to take up most of the spending limit within the average household in Trenton.
In a recent interview with an anonymous mother that lives in Trenton, she a time in her past when she had face faced food insecurities.
“There were times when I would go hungry in order to feed my kids,” she said. “I only did it so they can better focus on school, and won’t have to worry about their tummies growling.”
When asked about the effects of food insecurities on her children’s performance in school, she said, “It’s hard for anyone to focus when you’re hungry. So in terms of their performance, it’s at an average rate.”
So exactly how do food insecurities affect students’ performance?
A study by NEA Healthy Features states, “We know that hungry children can’t learn. They feel sick, get distracted and start to fall behind.”
Mr. Carpenter a teacher at Trenton High West stated, “It’s hard for these students to focus on school work when their stomachs hurt.”
But there are small steps that are being taken to combat this problem. People tend to depend on the School Morning Breakfast program founded by the USDA in 1966 — which comes with the downfall of a first come first served basis.
The school system is becoming somewhat of a contradiction in which they teach nutrition, but yet fail to serve it. Students come from a home where they can only get what they can afford and enter into the schools and fail to receive the nutrition that is missing at home. Because of the lack of nutrition, the success of students in the Trenton Public School system tend to lose focus on the topics at hand.
There are other programs that play the same part as the school breakfast program. Some of these programs are the Mercer Street Friends Center, the Healthy Corner Store Initiative and the Farmer’s Market. The Farmer’s Market in Trenton, located at 960 Spruce St, allows for people to come and buy healthy home grown fruits, vegetables and other essential nutritious foods. While Mercer Street Friends Center runs a food bank in which they serve hundreds if not thousands of people with canned goods and other foods needed to have a balanced meal. Small programs like these allow those who lack the proper funds to keep themselves as well as their students fed.
Later on in the interview with the mother, she said, “My children would come home and explain to me that they couldn’t focus because they were hungry. As a parent, something like that hurts.”
When asked what could be done, she went to say that more more government funding would help.
Programs, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, have recently undergone significant cuts to the program, which require tighter restrictions on prospective applicants, but will also lead to reduced benefits for some of the 900,000 people who are already enrolled in SNAP in New Jersey.
“You can’t expect for a family to live off of $14 a month,” she said.
Even though recent cutbacks left this single mother with just $14 a month, some receive less. The governmental cutbacks just don’t effect the food stamps portion, but other additives that used to be include in SNAP, such as heating assistance.
When my own mother applied for food stamps and heating assistance, it was made clear that there was a waiting list and that it could take months if not years before she received a reply. New Jersey is one of the states that is financially unequal between classes in terms of funding. Between the reconstruction of the Jersey Shore and other plans that are in place to increase the net income of New Jersey, that leaves little to no funds for the people who desperately need it.
In an interview with Andrew Holt, a student currently enrolled at The College of New Jersey who was a student from Trenton, stated, “It’s frustrating to see people who need the funds rejected because it’s being put elsewhere. We need rules. Ones that allow the helpless to be helped first and then ration out the rest to those who don’t need it.”
With only three true supermarkets and bodegas taking up 29 percent of the grocery industry, exactly how can we change the status of the Trentonians facing food insecurities?
The answer to that is to give more funding to those who need it the most for food assistance, along with the opening of more food banks, and the true understanding of the problem at hand. Without all three things in the works, one can never fully combat food desert and the troubles that come with it. These three solutions can not only help out for the betterment of Trentonians, but also for those who face the same kind of food insecurities outside of Mercer County.
Written with and for individuals experiencing homelessness in the Trenton, New Jersey area.