Stoolmacher: Hunger’s Not a Game

Written by Barbara Fox

Feeding the hungry — that doesn’t sound like a fun topic, one that you would like to contemplate over a meal. But at the United Methodist Men’s breakfast at our church on October 14, Phyllis Stoolmacher  quoted poignant stats like a politician, dispensed the folk wisdom with the aplomb of a culinary Dr. Ruth, and inspired like a preacher.

Stoolmacher has been the forever-director of the 25-year- old Mercer Street Friends Food Bank, which  distributes 50,000 pounds of food a week to some 60 organizations to help feed 25,000 people in Mercer County who don’t have access to enough healthy food.

Some at the breakfast had just taken the food stamp challenge, to live for a week on the meagre amount provided by what is now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). And the 25-year-old food bank partners with the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen which in turns partners with our church to deliver a weekly Wednesday meal at the Cornerstone Community Kitchen.

I learned new facts and confirmed what I already knew. Federal contribution of commodities has been cut by two-thirds. A family of four can qualify for SNAP if the household income is less than $23,500, and this number does not account for the high cost of living in Mercer County. “It’s not a welfare program,” says Stoolmacher, “and we send our people out into the community with laptops to help people qualify.” Nutrition dollars come on a debit card so nobody can tell whether someone is swiping a credit card or the SNAP card. People stay on SNAP for an average of 9 months.

Restaurants can’t donate because of health issues. Supermarkets do donate, but not prepared food. The state provides funds to buy Jersey Fresh fruits and vegetables. Children who would otherwise go hungry on weekends get sent home with a backpack of easy-to-prepare microwavable meals. Simple recipes go into regular bags of groceries.

It’s best to give dollars rather than canned goods because the food bank can buy in bulk. “You would be surprised at what comes from food drives,” she said wryly, “how much cranberry sauce we get at Thanksgiving and how much matzoh we get in April. Who likes  matzoh? I want tuna fish! Give me tuna fish and I am a happy camper.”

What else can we do? Realize that someone you know may be “nutritionally challenged.” Encourage somebody who is looking for work, maybe they’ve run out of unemployment benefits, to sign up for the SNAP program. Or bring them to our Cornerstone Community Kitchen on Wednesdays, from 5 to 6:30 p.m.  Nobody knows the difference between the people who come for nutrition or those who come for conversation and companionship. There’s plenty of food on the plates, and there are flowers on the tables.

Some of that food found its way to Princeton via Stoolmacher. She won’t countenance empty or unhealthy calories — not soda, not Gatorade, not ramen noodles, not sweet cereal. Besides tuna fish, her most coveted item is shelf stable milk-in-a-box. “It tastes like real milk.”

At the next United Methodist Men’s breakfast, Sunday, November 11 at 8 a.m., PUMC church member Ed Felten will be the speaker. Reservations at, $5.00.

A version of this post was published on the Princeton Comment blog



Food Stamp Challenge

The congregation was given a food stamp challenge. We were asked to live off the weekly food budget of $31/person, which about $1.48/person per meal. I’ve seen signs around Princeton for people to participate.

This challenge allowed us to understand the struggle that low-income parents have to provide healthy meals for their family, while avoiding hunger. Unfortunately, this isn’t enough for most families, so many must turn to food banks and soup kitchens to steer clear of starvation.

It’s comforting to know that we here at the Princeton United Methodist Church host a community meal on Wednesdays thanks to our Cornerstone Community Kitchen to help those in need in the Princeton area.

Pastor Jana mentioned that we eat in excess, so if we establish portion control, shop wisely, use coupons, stay away from snack foods and specialty drinks (including soda), don’t eat out or get take out, it’s possible to feed your family for $31 per person a day, but it is a real challenge.

Prices can prove to be the biggest obstacle, so you might have to shop around. This means cutting out purchases at Wegman’s and Whole Foods, and look for the best deals at Shoprite or make a trip to Walmart or Aldi’s to help you stay within the budget. The trick is to buy food that’s filling while being nutritious.

This was a difficult challenge, and I think I failed by going over budget a bit to keep my 16 year old athlete from starving. We ate old-fashion oatmeal and raisin bran for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, and pasta, rice with beans, and soup for dinner.

My favorite meal was a Greek-inspired dish made with giant butter beans in a homemade tomato sauce with onion, garlic, and thyme, topped with a little feta cheese.

Did you take on the challenge? How did you fare?


Bloom Where You Are Planted

Reposted from Princeton Comment.

After seven moves and three kids, accomplished early in our marriage, we landed here in Princeton and have stayed planted for more than 30 years. (We love it here, but the cost of NOT moving is more clutter! It’s hard to get rid of stuff when you stay put.)Cheryl Mart and Karin Brouwer have more recent experience with the joys and challenges of moving.  They are leading a non-denominational Christian study, based on a Susan Miller book and video, at Princeton United Methodist Church on Wednesdays, starting September 19, 10:30 to noon.

This free one-semester study is designed to help in the process of letting go, starting over, and moving ahead with your life after a move.  Women do not need to attend the church to attend the free classes, which involve videos, reading, and discussion.

“Over the last 25 years I’ve lived with my husband and three children in five different countries,” says Brouwer. “With every move I have experienced God’s sustained love to overcome difficulties and the importance of having a church family. It helped me to bloom where I am planted.”

Mart, a registered nurse, had a difficult transition in moving from Texas to Princeton and leaving her married children behind. “I found encouragement in ‘After the Boxes are Unpacked’ by Susan Miller,” she says. “By offering this study, we hope to reach out to those who are struggling with similar issues.”

Perhaps the “Moving On after Moving In” study is “right” for the newcomer you know. Or maybe another resource is. The Women in Business subset of the Princeton chamber comes to mind. In any case, the very best resource is probably YOU. Make time. Reach out. Have coffee.

For more information click here or email, or call 609-921-0730.  (Disclosure — I’m a member at PUMC).

And They’re Off! UFAR 5K on October 6th


Reposted from Princeton Comment

It is such a pleasant path for a 5k run (or, in my case, a 5k walk)! Starting at the seminary, downhill past Springdale Golf Course, along the shaded trail through part of the fabled Institute Woods, where Einstein strolled, past the Institute for Advanced Study, then threading your way through the sycamore-lined streets of some of Princeton’s most impressive homes — and uphill (alas) to the seminary’s wide expansive lawn where cheering crowds await. Even for those who walk — and take an hour to get there — some are there to cheer and record the time. The three fastest runners, male and female, get prizes — and everyone gets a fabulous T-shirt.

And it’s all for a good cause — to combat riverblindness.  The annual UFAR 5k to Combat Riverblindness is Saturday, October 6. The starting gun goes off at 10 a.m. Those who register now qualify for a discount, $20 instead of $25. Go online to

Just by running, you will keep 12 people from going blind in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The medicine for riverblindness is provided free by Merck & Co., but distributing it to remote villages costs 58 cents per person per year for 10 years.  One-third of the 60 million people in the DRC are at risk for getting riverblindness, which starts with a rash and leads to sight loss, forcing children to leave school to care for

If you are not the running or walking type, or if you just want to help a good cause, please consider volunteering – handing out water (you get to set up your table in a shady spot) or marking the trail or ….lots of ways to help. Mark your calendar for October 6 and call Princeton United Methodist Church at 609-924-2613 or email


ASP Team Finds Power in the Connection

Kudos to Bonsack UMC and Pastor Tim Tate and his team for rescuing our ASP volunteers whose travel plans were hijacked by the violent weather! Eventually the team was able to make their way to the Mullens, WV site, which we understand has power and A/C. We probably won’t hear from the team for a bit since there is neither cell service nor internet at the site. For the time being – no news is good news!

Community Dinner a Success

PUMC Cornerstone Community Kitchen Grand Opening
L-R Howard Roundtree, Dennis Micai, Pastor Jana Purkis-Brash, and Larry Apperson

The Princeton Cornerstone Community Kitchen opened its doors on June 6th for the first time. TASK Executive Director Dennis Micai was on hand, as well as Howard Roundtree of TASK and the Crisis Ministry who will deliver the food.

Princeton Cornerstone Community Kitchen Breakfast BagRound tables, great for conversation, were set with tablecloths and flowers. 46 guests were served a nutritious meal, and kids were given a bag of breakfast treats for the next morning’s meal.

The servers were very friendly. People were seated, and the meals were given with a smile, and a bit of conversation. After they left, servers quickly cleaned and set-up for the next diners.

The group I sat with kept me intrigued and entertained the entire meal. It was nice to meet so many people who had interesting stories to share.

When families dine together, kids do better physically, socially and academically. When singles and seniors dine with others, it gives them the opportunity to eat a more balanced meal and have stimulating conversation.

Princeton Cornerstone Community Kitchen Meal

Overall, it’s a win-win situation for everyone who comes. And best of all, it’s absolutely FREE! I encourage you to join us for dinner on Wednesdays 5-6:30 PM, and please spread the word.

Cornerstone Community Kitchen, Beginning June 6th

Cornerstone Community Kitchen  is the name of our new Wednesday evening dinner that will begin June 6th.  On that Wednesday we will begin offering a free nourishing meal in a warm and friendly atmosphere to all who come. Those who come will be guaranteed a warm greeting, someone to talk with if they like, and a satisfying meal.  We hope to nourish body and soul as we build community around the table. Dinner will be served will be from 5 till 6:30 PM in the Sanford Davis room. Teams are being organized to serve one Wednesday each month. If you have an interest in being part of this opportunity the Lord has given us here at PUMC, contact the church office.