By Lauren Wanko
One hundred fifty pounds of potatoes are mashed as string beans are covered in a garlic butter sauce at the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen. The food is part of a Christmas meal, prepared by Muslim and Jewish volunteers.
“In our faith, in Islam, no matter what religion, we need to help out people that are in need,” said Muslims Against Hunger volunteer Azra Baig.
Trenton Area Soup Kitchen, or TASK’s, annual Christmas dinner is sponsored this year by Muslims Against Hunger, an organization dedicated to feeding those in need. Volunteers bring the food, cook and serve.
“This is a Halal meal, it’s a meal that’s prepared in accordance with the Islamic religious law,” said Princeton University Muslim Chaplain Sohaib Sultan.
This patron is grateful for today’s event.
“It brings people of Greater Trenton together, all of our friends are here, the staff is here,” said Theresa Priolo.
Nancy Asher-Shultz, a member of the Jewish community, didn’t want to miss the opportunity to give back today.
“It’s important to me to have people of all faiths learning to work together. It’s the way to keep our world a good place,” she said.
“We are the melting pot of the world. We’re the most diverse country in the world and we need to understand and appreciate that we’re more alike with one another than different, but the differences are what make us exciting,” said Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman.
This Christmas meal is one of many offered at TASK. Volunteers serve two meals Monday through Thursday and lunch on Friday, all year long. The nonprofit also has 13 satellite locations. Staffers deliver food there as well. TASK also offers services to patrons, including an adult education program, creative arts classes, computer training and more.
Executive Director Joyce Campbell says feeding people still remains the top priority. She sees the overwhelming demand daily.
“This year to date we are up 16 percent in terms of the number of meals we’ve served. Last year we served 292,000 meals and I do expect we will go over 300,000. I think while some folks feel the economy has recovered, it’s not recovered that well for the folks we see, those folks who are living in poverty or living paycheck to paycheck,” she said.
TASK expects to feed about 500 people today’s holiday meal.