Volunteer Stories: Princeton Staff Support Local Community

Nov. 23, 2021

Martha d’Avila, project manager, Office of Capital Projects, began volunteering with the Princeton Mobile Food Pantry in the spring of 2020, shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic began. Having already known other volunteers, it was easy for her to jump in and begin making a positive impact in her community.

Rows of bags are filled with fresh produce to donate to families in need.

Bags of fresh groceries are packaged and ready for delivery to local families.

Photo by Jennifer Cohan

The New Jersey Department of Health reports that over 30,000 residents, including nearly 8,000 children, struggle with food insecurity in Mercer County. In an effort to reduce these numbers, Princeton Mobile Food Pantry provides fresh groceries to families with children enrolled in Princeton Public Schools. Since last year, the pantry has grown from supporting 90 to 160 local families.

Every two weeks, Martha joins other volunteers to help sort large quantities of fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, and dairy products purchased with a generous discount from McCaffrey’s Food Markets. Donations from other community partners are often included in the bags that are then delivered throughout town.

“Just knowing that I’m helping people in my community is a great achievement in itself…it’s the small gestures that can make people feel welcome.”

Princeton Mobile Food Pantry is unique because it strives to offer the same high-quality groceries a family would purchase for itself — including foods that are culturally-relevant. For example, the pantry often distributes foods like avocado, beans, and maseca (corn flour) to Latin American families for use in their cooking.

As a volunteer, Martha hopes to show others how they can make a positive impact in their communities. At Princeton Mobile Food Pantry, the 57 volunteers range from doctors and real estate agents to parents and children — each contributing to the cause in their own way. Martha’s goal is to inspire more people to step out of their comfort zone and make a difference.

For more information or to become a volunteer, visit the Princeton Mobile Food Pantry. Princeton Mobile Food Pantry is a 501©(3) organization.