As Jenkintown’s food insecurity expands, so has its Food Cupboard

Jenkintown Food Cupboard has taken on a new Executive Director, Nickeleno Ellis, to assist in tackling the growing demand for help in the community. Ellis began in December 2021, and as the Cupboard’s first paid employee, he sees his new job as a symbol of the times.

“They had expanded past the point where they needed a paid employee, which is why they brought me on,” Ellis said. “They were leaning on Mindy Bartscherer, the former Executive Director who had been there for 9 years but was just a volunteer, so they finally decided to take the next growth step.”

In the words of mayor Gabe Lerman, “He’s been very active.”

Probably an understatement. As food insecurity expands throughout the county, Jenkintown has been seeing record numbers of economically insecure families as of late.

“The need is growing in our community, and we’re seeing more people than we ever have. We’re serving about 800 families a month, which is one of the highest numbers in the county. It’s about 10 new families a week. As we see the need grow, we’re trying to adjust and adapt to it,” Ellis said. “Food security doesn’t stop with the band-aid that is a box of food. The hope is that the weekly support we currently offer will expand to the point where we can give more workforce development, including resume-building, and fiscal management and have people attack the base of the problem and take the next step to be more self-sustainable. Food insecurity and poverty has to be approached by a variety of means.”

As the Cupboard comes up on its busiest time of year, the holiday season, the hats worn by volunteers multiplies, as do the list of needed items for daily life. Toiletries, baby products, clothing items, and feminine hygiene products are given out alongside nutritional donations. “It all trickles into those resources that can be used for food,” Ellis said.

The Cupboard has a community event side as well, the pinnacle of which is Jenkinfest, a themed three-part series. The first Jenkinfest had a carnival vibe, with dunk-tank appearances by mayor Lerman and State Representative Napoleon Nelson. Movie night in August was followed by the Barbecue Bash, which featured outdoor grilling, water games, and live music.

This year’s annual community celebration was sponsored by and held at Human Robot “The Haus,” and the Baederwood Fall Fest is up next in November.

“We coordinate a community block party and people are invited out of their storefronts. There will be face painting, live music, and people can come to learn a little more about what our partners do,” Ellis said.

For more on the work that Jenkintown Food Cupboard has been doing in our community, you can check out their website and their Facebook page.